Percent of online dating scams

These movies perpetuate unrealistic, pristine expectations for online relationships and may shape victims' assumptions, causing them to overlook suspicious online behavior in exchange for a chance at love. Online Dating Scams use internet technology to augment scamming practices that have existed for hundreds of years. The evolution of technology in scams can be analyzed through three case-studies: Holmes , and Oral Roberts. William Thompson lived in New York City in the s.

Thompson built personal relationships with strangers on the street and asked to borrow their valuable pocket-watches before disappearing. Through this practice, Thompson was dubbed by the media as the first "Confidence Man [19]. Holmes took advantage of the technology showcased at the Chicago World's Fair to become one of the first documented American serial killers.

Holmes preyed on visitors to the fair, offering them a place to stay or companionship before taking their lives. Although he exploited contemporary technology to reach a high concentration of victims, Holmes relied on his own ability to attract people in person to deceive his victims. Oral Roberts was a televangelist who took advantage of television technology to find a large and varied group of donors for his controversial fundraising tactics [20].

Like Holmes, Roberts' use of contemporary technology helped him find a wide set of victims. However, television does not provide anonymity; Roberts' success still rested on his attractiveness and personal relations skills. The internet dating scam can be viewed as the next step in this evolution - online scammers attract their victims through similar tactics, but they are able to take advantage of the internet's wide audience and anonymity.

Another prominent type of scam is the Advance Fee Fraud. In this class of scam, the scammer tells the victim that they need help moving or securing a large sum of money, and in exchange for assistance the victim can keep a percentage of the money. The victim, in order to accept the deal, gives the scammer their bank account information [21]. Much like dating scams and Confidence Scams, Advance Fee Frauds started as early as [22] and have grown in prevalance and complexity along with relevant technologies.

Catfishing is another form of online dating scam, but unlike those above it does not typically involve the scammer trying to get money from the target. The individuals use similar tactics as above and become romantically involved with their targets. Their motives can range from elaborate pranks to pleasure in the manipulation of others. After pursuing an online relationship with what he thought was a young woman named Megan, Schulman discovered that "Megan" was really a middle-aged married woman.

Schulman took the name "catfish" after a story the woman's husband told: In life, the husband explained, there were also "catfish"--people that keep others on their toes, keeping life from being boring. The victims are encouraged to contact their online romantic interest, and the production crew facilitates a meeting between them. The show is interesting in that, in cases where the individual was being catfished, the crew does not attempt to embarrass the catfisher, as one might expect, but rather listens to their motives objectively and tries to promote understanding.

There is some debate on the legitimacy of the stories portrayed and production. Ultimately, on January 16th, , Deadspin published an article revealing the hoax. According to Te'o the two became Facebook friends in , and they began an emotional relationship that became romantic in Communication between the two only occurred through messaging and telephone, and the two would never speak face-to-face. Te'o did plan to fly to Los Angeles to visit her in April before she abruptly cancelled.

Kekua also got into a car accident later that same month, an event confirmed by her brother and Te'o's own friend, John Pepelnjak. In June , Kekua informed Te'o that she had been diagnosed with leukemia. He attempted to visit her once more, but was unable to because of family commitments.

Kekua "died" in September, but the hoax would continue. In November, Te'o met Tuiasosopo at an event set up to honor and remember Kekua. Te'o then received a call on December 6th from Kekua saying that she was not dead. Te'o's case is a textbook example of catfishing. The scam does not involve money and is undertaken by the catfisher for emotional purposes. In an interview with Dr. Phil, Tuiasosopo held that he catfished for self-validation. One source claims that Tuiasosopo was attempting to "recover" from homosexuality, and "had invented the persona of Kekua to normalize his feelings about men.

In our online dating survey, 12 percent of people say they were conned

Several other "red flags" are typical of catfishing. Abrupt cancellation of face-to-face meetings and heartbreaking or emotional events, in this case a car accident and sudden serious illness, are characteristic of this type of scam. Kekua posing as an attractive model, a profile that seems to good to be true, also should have set off some alarms. To show how easy Catfishing can be, the Wikibooks team conducted an experiment, using classic dating scam techniques. A fake Facebook profile was created for a fake UVa student.

The pictures were publicly available, and thus easy to copy. Once the pictures were collected, the team created a fake email and Facebook account under the name Julia Perkins. This large social network made her profile seem legitimate. These tactics are used by Catfishers to win the trust of their victims, who assume an impostor could not have such a copious amount of Facebook friends.

Two people who received friend requests from Julia did, however, question her profile, and confronted her on Facebook. This shows some people are vigilant of such scams. However, most people who added Julia did not question the validity of her identity. Upon revealing the experiment, many people who added Julia mentioned that they added her because they had mutual friends.

Some participants even thought they had met her previously. In this case, it likely would have been easy to begin an online friendship or relationship, as Julia's seemingly legitimate profile convinced many that she was real.

On social media, where mere acquaintances are often added as "friends", the use of Catfishing can be quite easy. The psychology behind Catfishing can be explained by deindividuation. Deindividuation is the psychological phenomena in which the immersion of an individual within a crowd results in a loss of self-identity, causing the individual to deviate from acceptable social behaviors [33]. Deindividuation was first used to explain mob mentality, in which large crowds are capable of violent behavior [34].

Deindividuation theory states that there is a direct correlation between uninhibited behavior and group size [35]. Thus, the larger the group, the more anonymous the person feels. The Internet serves as the perfect medium, with near-complete anonymity. This is true in the case of Catfishing, in which the anonymity provided by the fake profile strips the individual from their identity. Thus, social norms are abandoned and predators lose empathy for their victims.

Facebook's dating app revs up romance scams - CBS News

This phenomena is seen throughout the Internet. A study by Arthur Santana showed that anonymous online commenters were more likely to be uncivil than those who registered to comment [36]. This led Popular Science to ban comments on their website [37]. More recently, the popular app Yik Yak has received attention for its negative comments. Yik Yak is an anonymous messaging app, requiring no login or password, in which users post messages that can be viewed by anyone within a 10mile radius [38]. It is used extensively by college and high school students to post comical statuses and updates about school activities [39].

However, the app is also used heavily for cyber-bullying, hate speech, and threats [39]. Deindividuation can be attributed to this behavior. Deindividuation online serves as an example that when there is a lack of accountability, people deviate from social norms.


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Internet romance scams are a serious social problem. Thousands of victims are affected every year. Money, material possessions, and emotional security can all be lost as a result of these scams.


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All email addresses you provide will be used just for sending this story. Just over a year ago, the Department of Justice announced that seven men—six from Nigeria and one from South Africa—had pleaded guilty to conning tens of millions of dollars from Americans via online dating sites. According to the FBI, romance scams and similar confidence scams cost consumers more money than any other kind of Internet fraud.

The FBI says it may be embarrassing for victims to report this type of fraud scheme because of the personal relationships that are developed, so the real numbers are probably higher. As one result, fear of a horrible first date is just one of the things a would-be online dater has to worry about.

Eventually a pitch for money comes. Often the scammer will say an emergency situation has arisen and money is needed fast to avoid dire consequences. This makes it hard for the victim to do due diligence.

Lentis/Online Dating Scams

The scammer might say that an immediate family member has a medical emergency and needs money for treatment, or that he has been wrongly arrested and needs help with bail money and legal support. Copy the images your online correspondent has posted to his or her profile, then run them through a reverse-image search engine, such as TinEye or Google Images.

The website Scamalytics maintains a blacklist of scammers who use false pictures. A little online stalking can go a long way. Type the name of the person you met online into Google or Bing and see what comes up. You might not be able to surface information like criminal records, but from their social media profiles, LinkedIn page, and other information you find, you should be able to get a sense of whether what they are telling you comports with the facts.

Sometimes, it may be wise to dig deeper. For example, if a person you met online claims to run a business abroad, call the U. Embassy to confirm that the business exists. If you are asked to send money and feel so inclined, run the whole scenario by someone you trust. Choose a friend or someone from your church or community who is less emotionally invested than you are. Be open to their perspective.