You’ve met someone online that has a lot of potential as a romantic partner. The two of you email, text or talk on the phone frequently. Unfortunately, this person lives far away, and you can’t meet them in person. You’re worried they’re not who they say they are.
When interacting with a new person online, you can determine whether or not they’re a romance scammer by asking them several specific questions. Here’s a look at what you should ask, why it’s effective, and everything else you need to know to identify dating scams.
How Questions Help Identify Fraud
Romance scams are increasing at an astonishing rate. Over 25,000 people file reports with the FTC each year regarding romance scams, making it the most common type of scam found online. Victims collectively lost over $200 million.
By asking the following questions, you can quickly identify a potential scammer. They’re simple, friendly questions that feel right at home when getting to know a new romantic partner, but the answers help reveal if the other person is lying about themselves.
What is Your Full Name?
Many online scammers use plain, common American names such as John, Steve, and so on. When getting to know someone, ask them their full name, including their middle name. You want the ability to search for the person online.
Also, pay close attention to how the person reacts when you request their name. If they’re evasive or otherwise reluctant to answer, they might be a scammer. You should also be wary if they have an extremely common surname such as Smith, Johnson, or Williams.
Who is in Your Family?
Most online scammers don’t prepare detailed fictional biographies. It typically ends up being too much work, when they can simply create a new profile if their current one is identified as a scam.
Ask the potential scammer about their family. What are their parents like? Do they have any siblings? If they can’t provide answers with any substance, or if they attempt to change the subject, they’re likely a scammer.
What was Your Childhood Like?
Online scammers tend to focus on the future. They shower victims with promises of upcoming visits, marriage, and other forward-focused events.
Ask them to describe their childhood. What noteworthy events happened to them while growing up? A scammer can’t provide much detail, as their real childhood is likely significantly different than what makes sense for the persona they’ve created.
What College or High School Did You Attend?
A scammer based outside of the United States will struggle to identify a college or high school quickly. If they decide to bluff by picking a random school, you can ask them details about their experience.
Pay close attention to their answers. Are they providing information that’s unavailable from a quick Google search? Is their understanding of American high school and college life accurate? Non-American scammers sometimes mess up details such as age ranges for different grade levels.
What Do You Miss About Your Hometown?
Many scammers use a persona of an American working in a foreign country. Ask the person about their hometown. If they’re telling the truth, they’ll have no problem providing specific details about restaurants, local attractions, and more.
As with the question about schools, you’re looking for an answer that goes beyond what a quick Google search can provide.
Can We Video Chat?
A romance scammer will never chat with you on video. If you ask to connect with them on Zoom, Skype, or a similar platform, they’ll make an excuse to avoid doing so. In many cases, they’ll claim their camera is broken or missing. They might also agree to a future call, but eventually, they’ll have an excuse to avoid it.
Even the cheapest and most common computers typically have a built-in camera. Likewise, all smartphones also allow for easy video chatting. If a person has both a laptop and a phone, it’s extremely unlikely the camera isn’t working on both.
What is Your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram Account?
Scammers typically don’t build out extensive fake profiles across multiple sites. For example, if you meet a scammer on Facebook, they’re unlikely to have an Instagram or Twitter account also set up with the same persona.
Also, look at the level of detail for any social media pages they provide. Scammers typically don’t create elaborate profiles because they don’t keep any single one active for a particularly long time. If the profile only has a photo or two, and doesn’t show signs of much activity, that’s a potential red flag.
Although romance scammers use sophisticated methods to trick their victims, they can struggle to provide significant details about the personas they create, especially regarding their family, childhood, and school.
Asking key questions to any new virtual acquaintance is an easy and effective way to identify potential dating scams, so you can stay safe online.