The online dating industry over the past two decades has become a business of millions. Many are the reasons that can lead someone to use those services, such as social inadequacy, fear of intimacy, lack of time to get to know people in social events, you can name it.
However, despite some of the visible advantages of those online applications, it brought to the social environment the “disposable culture”. Or phenomenons like “missing out syndrome”, “the grass is greener somewhere else”, and “I can do better”, all combined with superficial ties easily replaced. And the sense that you know someone well based only on text messages.
In the last five years, the Australian, American and Portuguese governments have warned about the increasing online romance fraud. Only in Australia, in 2019, according to ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), romance fraud cost Australian folks more than 28.6 million dollars. Women reported the highest total losses, but men also had 7 million dollars of losses which is 24.6 percent of the total losses.
Where is this happening, and why?
Online romance scams can happen on every online platform. But now besides regular dating apps, Instagram and even Facebook is the favorite place to scammers actions. Also, don’t think that only naive or uneducated people fall into these schemes, quite the opposite.
Why does this happen? First of all, every human being, when seeking relationships, seek trait variety. In the evolutionary aspect of our species, we want the best genes for our offspring. Therefore, if online dating opens the gate of a wider range of possible partners from different nationalities, of course, we want to try that possibility.
Secondly, long-distance relationships are on the rise. More and more people are engaging in long-distance relationships exactly because they meet online. Or because they met someone in another country while having holidays.
Scammers know this. They know how to approach the victims, how to develop conversations to gain trust and intimacy. According to AARP’S Fraud Watch Network, most online romance frauds originate in eastern Europe, Russia, Nigeria, Ghana, or in countries such as Malaysia and United Kingdom.
How to avoid it?
- If you are dating online, date intentionally and don’t play games. Games only attract disaster.
- What are you seeking in the online dating realm? Real and meaningful connection or just someone to talk to?
- If you like someone there and you want to pursue the conversation in another environment. Screen every profile image using a reverse online image search because it will help you find out if the picture was stolen from someone else.
- Now, let’s say that you have added the person to your Facebook account. Search their name and see if he or she has an Instagram account. Is their profile private or public? And if public, why? Are they trying to attract brands, attention, validation? How many followers and followings they have? People with higher narcissistic traits tend to have more followers than followings because it indicates their influence and likeability (Farwaha and Obhi, 2019). They also frequently post selfies and lifestyle information as a way to promote themselves in the digital arena (Alshawaf and Wen, 2015). Literally, run away from these individuals. I don’t care how hot they are or how impressive they seem to be, just run! Forget the lust, the hormonal rush, and RUN!
- Returning to the Facebook platform, see if, besides the added friends, they have followers. And what type of followers they have. If it a woman’s profile, is the list of followers mostly composed of foreigners? Ask yourself why are they only following her and not on the friend list? How did they found her profile? Ask yourself all the questions you need and use your best judgment to decide what to do. Before any investment select wisely, the kind of people you want in your life.
- Before running into online dating, think about your beliefs around dating and relationships. What are your subconscious stories about it? Do you think men are all the same? Do you think women will take advantage of you, and maybe someone from another country wouldn’t do that? Listen, we just know someone when we spend real face-to-face time with them.
Can we develop feelings for someone over texting and FaceTime? Sure we can. But before entering anything else in romantic terms, ask yourself if you are willing to move yourself to another country and start your life from zero? Can you afford visa processes to expand professionally, not only because of someone else? Does the other person talks in-depth about their lives and shows up consistently? Do they get out of their comfort zone to give or do something to make you happy despite the distance?
When dealing with human beings, we are dealing with their emotions, feelings, and life stories. Relationships require hard work, not just sweet talk. It is disgusting to use someone as a way to obtain money or a free visa pass. This sort of behavior erodes trust, leaves imprinted traumas, and is completely against the fundamental principles that make us humans: the need to connect.
Alshawaf E., Wen L. (2015). Understanding digital reputation on Instagram: a case study of social media mavens. In: Proceedings of the 2nd European conference on social media ECSM, pp 19–27
Farwaha S., Obhi, SS. (2019). Differential motor facilitation during action observation in followers and leaders on instagram. Front Hum Neurosci 13:67. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2019.00067
AARP. (2015). Are you Real? – Inside an Online Dating Scam. https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2015/online-dating-scam.html
ACCC. (2020). Romance Scammers move to new apps, costing Aussies more than $28.6 million. https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/romance-scammers-move-to-new-apps-costing-aussies-more-than-286-million