You’ve probably heard about romance scams where con artists trick unsuspecting victims into falling in love – and parting with their money. Lately, BBB Scam Tracker is getting reports of a new type of romance scam. In this con, it’s the entire dating website that’s a sham.
How the scam works
You sign up for a dating service that seems legitimate. The site asks you to fill out a profile with your personal information. This includes your credit card number, which is used to pay for your membership.
However, when you start browsing other users’ profiles, you notice red flags. Other members who contact you have incomplete profiles that lack photos and other basic information. The site may encourage you to connect with people who don’t match your dating profile. For example, they may live in a different city or be outside your preferred age range. You may also notice that profiles frequently vanish from the site—even after you’ve chatted with them.
It turns out that these other daters aren’t even real. The site is filled with phony profiles make you think that the site has many members. Once you figure out the hoax, you try to cancel your membership. But the site just keeps billing you.
In some cases, the scam dating site requires you to pay to contact other “daters.” One victim reported joining a dating service where she bought “coins” in order to chat with other members. “I was bombarded with messages from nearly 200 different users in only a few days and without even fully filling out a personal profile,” she told BBB Scam Tracker. “I paid for coins three times and was double charged each time. This site hires operators to steal photos, assume fake identities, and then bombards users with messages to entice them into buying coins to conversate by lying and leading people on.”
How to spot fake dating websites
- Do your research before you sign up. Do an internet search of the dating website’s name along with the words “reviews” and “scams.” Look carefull for any negative reports or past users who suspect the website is fake.
- Make sure you understand how the website works. It’s not entirely unusual to have to pay a monthly fee or small fees for individual connections to dating services but be sure the website is up front about how their payment system works. If they payment system isn’t well documented or you find it confusing, choose another dating service instead.
- If it’s too good to be true, don’t believe it! For example, if you haven’t even completed your personal profile and people are lining up to meet you, it’s probably a scam. The same goes for individuals who make unrealistic claims about their love and devotion for you – especially if you just met online.
- Use your credit card to pay for online services and memberships. When you pay with your credit card, you can dispute any unauthorized charges or charges made for fake services. The same may not be true if you use your debit card or if you give a company your banking information, such as your account number and your bank’s routing number.
- Never give money or personal information to a stranger. Some con artists will ask you for money so they can buy a flight to come visit you or for some other “noble” reason. If someone you’ve never met in person starts asking you for information like credit card, bank, or government ID numbers, cut off contact immediately.
For more information, visit BBB.org and read the BBB Study on romance scams and get tips to avoid falling victim. If you’ve discovered a dating website is fake, file a report on BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others.