Love Don't Cost A Thing?

14 February 2010, 06:00

If cupid hasn’t quite got it right for you just yet then on the most romantic day of the year you may be thinking about signing up to an online dating agency.

Thousands of people are now signed up to online dating sites and many have found true love and happiness because of them, however the same is not true for some users. Many online agencies compete in a lucrative market and it’s often difficult for them to screen the vast number of people who sign up to their websites.  It is therefore important you take extra care when speaking to someone over the internet who you have never met before.

 Today, Suffolk Trading Standards are warning of a scam where a person creates a false profile at an online dating agency, makes contact on the pretence of seeking romance and then steals your money. Scammers can sign up to online dating agencies and chat rooms just like anyone else.  Many online dating sites allow anyone to join for free and scammers often take advantage of the anonymity of the internet to create a profile of your perfect match. They will not ask you for money immediately.  Instead they will build up a relationship with you in which they make numerous promises to attract you and cause you to let your defences down.  Therefore it is important to be aware of the signs you need to keep an eye out for.

 At first the scammer will try to convince you that you are in a loving relationship.  The next logical step is for them to meet you, however there is a problem.  They don’t have enough money to travel to see you. They will then ask you to send money to them via a money transfer agent so that they are untraceable.  Other reasons they give for the need of financial support may include that they are abroad and don’t have enough money for the flight or for a visa, that they have been robbed and beaten, or they require urgent surgery and you are the only person who can help them.

 Beware also of those who use PO Box addresses and telephone numbers which they never answer and do not have voicemail.  Also watch out if your new online date talks about themselves a lot and does not answer your questions.  It may be because they are sending standard emails to hundreds of people.

 Marc Titford, Principal Trading Standards Officer, said; “The majority of people who sign up to online dating sites are simply looking for friendship and you shouldn’t think that everyone has signed up in order to part you from your money.  The message from Suffolk Trading Standards is just to be careful. 

“To protect yourself from falling victim to an online dating scam, Suffolk Trading Standards recommends that you never, ever send money or reveal your bank details to someone you do not know, however plausible they sound.  Stop, think and be sceptical.  Is this person who they really say they are?”

Suffolk Trading Standards recommends that you take the following steps to protect yourself:

  • Only use a reputable online dating agency or chat service and follow the basic safety tips for online dating
  • Be sceptical and ask yourself simple questions, for example; ‘why am I the only person who can help them, when I have just met them?’
  • Test your date – ask them lots of questions, try to phone them or post them something or possibly suggest meeting them.  If all attempts fail, you are probably dealing with a scammer.
  • Do not give out any personal details.  Do not give out your personal or work telephone number, email addresses, home address or place of work.
  • Always try and meet someone who lives locally.  Make use of the online search engines on dating sites which matches you with someone who lives closest to your postcode address.