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5 Tips for Spotting a Con Man

So you’ve met someone online and they look amazing on paper. Too good to be true? Well, they might be.

While the vast majority of people you meet online are honest and well-meaning, there are a few nefarious con men (and women) trolling the Internet looking to scam money. They figure the quickest way to your wallet is through your heart.

Fortunately, there are warning signs to help you avoid becoming a victim.

1. They Are A Little Too Good Looking

A profile photo that features a phenomenally good-looking person may be a red flag.

Note the quality of the photograph. Anything too professional-looking should raise your suspicion levels. Scammers frequently pull photos of models from stock photography sites and use them as their own to attract people.

Look for any inconsistencies between the photo and the person’s self-description. If they claim to be down-to-earth and unconcerned with physical beauty, yet their picture looks like a Hollywood headshot, that should raise a question.

And if you happen to be one of those sincere, honest, beautiful people, make sure you include several snapshots that show you relaxing at home or with friends in addition to your professional headshot.

2. They Want To Move Too Fast

You meet someone online, you exchange an e-mail or two, and then all of a sudden they want your phone number—like right now. Our advice is to proceed with caution. With every virtual relationship, there’s a natural progression from e-mails to IM, to phone calls to finally, meeting in person. It doesn’t have to be in this order, per se, but use this as a general rule.

A person who wants to bypass from step A directly to Z should be considered suspicious.

3. They Seem Too Good To Be True

Scammers have a knack for creating online personas that are very attractive.

• The down-to-earth single father who has fallen head over heels in love.

• The beautiful young woman from a foreign country who needs help.

• The wealthy doctor who has finally found someone who understands him.

These scams are successful because the perpetrators are great at crafting believable situations that lower your guard. They need to gain trust in order to ask for money in the future.

Whenever you meet someone online who seems too good to be true or falls in love with you too quickly it’s time to step back and consider the situation. This person may be genuine and honest, but you’ll want to move forward in a cautious, deliberate manner looking for any other suspicious behavior.

4. They Want Money

If a person you meet online asks you for money, chances are, the person is a scammer. It’s really that simple. They may have a persuasive story. They may have an “emergency.” They may only need a “loan.” Whatever this person may tell you we strongly encourage you to NEVER send money to someone you meet online.

Once you’ve established a real face-to-face relationship for a period of time you’ll be able to assess whether sharing money is a good idea. Until then, don’t do it.

And if the person asking for money is out of the country, then you can be assured you’re dealing with a scammer. Nigeria may be the most famous country of origin for email scams, but clever scam artists have taken root in dozens of countries around the world.

5. They Want Private Information

When we say private information, we aren’t referring to your relationship with your parents or how your last relationship ended; we’re about talking bank accounts, driver’s licenses, social security numbers, etc.

Remember, obvious con men don’t last very long. The successful ones are experts of subtlety; and a seemingly innocuous question, “Where do you bank?” can start the ball rolling in terms of information they need to swindle you out of money or your identity.

If you are convinced you’ve come across a con man, you should notify the site where you met him. The site can check him out and, if they agree with you, remove him or even involve the authorities.

Obviously, most of the people you meet online are good, honest people looking to make a friend, find love or get advice, while a slim percentage are out there to do harm. Now what you know what to look for, you’re less likely to fall victim to a con man.

Another sound piece of advice that you probably heard from Mom: if there’s something that doesn’t sit right with you about a person, that’s your instinct talking. So start walking.

Suspect you may be involved with a scammer? These sites provide valuable information on online scammers.

FBI site outlining current scams

Federal Trade Commission Report on Top Ten Online Scams

Forum with Fraud Alerts