How to spot a dating scammer

For the most part, you'll meet some amazing people online. Unfortunately there are also some deeply unpleasant people around too – and some of those are actively trying to scam you. When it comes to the dating world, these people are often known as ‘catfish', and they often create elaborate identities specifically tailored to elicit your sympathy. We all want to be loved, and so it is surprisingly easy to be taken in by one of these scammers, no matter how otherwise astute we may be.

Here's a top ten list of signs that you may have been contacted by a scammer. If you find that you can identify at least two of these elements in an online relationship, then you may want to take a closer look at them, as you may be being targeted.

1. Inconsistencies in their physical descriptions are a big warning sign. Most people are proportionately built, so beware of people who are six foot tall but only weigh ninety pounds, for example. In addition, compare the description with any photos provided - a good way to check is to ask them to take a fresh photo with some agreed phrase on it to send to you, or ask to chat on Skype or Facetime and be wary of anyone who suddenly can't find a camera.

2. Look for inconsistencies in their photos, and in particular if it doesn't match up with what they say they were doing when it was taken - someone wrapped up for winter in a picture that is supposed to be taken at a barbecue is a pretty good example of this.

3. Be very wary of anyone using a professionally shot photo in their profile. Look for homemade photos and watermarks. There are also a number of phone-based apps like Google Goggles that will tell you if a photo appears anywhere else online. If the photo is also on a modelling website, then it's probably a fake.

4. Watch for obvious spelling and grammatical failures, along with dialect issues that can be a clue that the writer is not using their native language. Someone claiming to be local who writes clumsily may need closer examination even if they claim to be dyslexic.

5. Look for profiles that seem to have been copied directly from somewhere else. A common tactic by scammers is to simply copy someone else's introduction word for word from other dating sites.

6. Be wary of anyone who tries to rush you away from this site straight away. Most people are happy to chat directly here first. If you are being hustled away somewhere else, they are often trying to distract you from checking their profile.

7. If they are rushing things to be too serious too soon, then stop and take a moment to think. Scam artists will usually have a polished patter that looks to hit all your boxes straight away and will be quite forward. The aim is to put pressure on you when you are still assimilating information and provoke your sympathy for them when they reel out their sob story. You are more vulnerable at that point because you are still swept up in the romance and new relationship energy of the moment.

8. A scammer will usually ask a lot of question without giving away any information about themselves. This mixture of curiosity and secretiveness is a classic signal that is sometimes explained away by saying that they have been hurt in the past, which then puts the onus on you to prove that you are trustworthy.

9. Fake social media profiles. These are often sparsely populated and set up around the same time as the dating profile - in addition be wary of anyone who is sufficiently confident online to set up a dating profile but who claims not to know how to set up a Facebook or G+ profile. It's another inconsistency.

10. They ask you for money. Many scammers won't actually ask for money – they'll be looking to harvest your details for identity theft, but a direct request for money should always be a red flag.

Just remember that most people online are not scammers and are here just like you to have fun and to find someone new in their life. Have fun, but just keep an eye out.

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