A Jewish Matchmaker shares the warning signs of an online dating scammer…

There may be no more emotionally vulnerable position than when you are looking for love online. With every profile, every flirt, every poke, you are inwardly hoping this could be “the one”. There is nothing wrong with being optimistic about love, it’s a much better mental place than being discouraged, but it also puts you in a vulnerable position that unfortunately, con artists can smell from a mile away (or 3000 miles away). Though nothing is foolproof, there are ways that you can protect yourself from catfishing casanovas. If you can keep your objectivity and analyze each interaction without getting caught up in the love bombing, you will quickly eliminate those with much less noble objectives than love. Which should bring you to the real thing all that much quicker. 🙂

Down to Numbers: Although it is very flattering to be approached by a younger single, it is also a reason to be cautious. Though there are many May-December romances that flourish and become long-term relationships, the majority do not and catfishing males in their 20s and 30s know that a woman in her 40s and 50s can be particularly vulnerable to their attention. From the male perspective, older women are thought to be financially secure and emotionally vulnerable – “easy pickins”, as they say.

Photo Fakery: You can immediately eliminate many scammers by conducting a simple Google photo search. Right click on each photo provided in their profile and select “Google Image Search”. Google will then search the internet for same and similar photos. If the profile is a fake one with fake pix, you’ll find the photo attributed to someone with a different name or social media account, or that it’s a stock photo. If the photos seem legit and you begin communicating, exchange some “real time” photos, just to confirm that he/she is not misrepresenting.

Instant Connection: Online scammers know that to be successful, they need to build a connection with their victim, and they need to build it fast. To do so, they begin asking a LOT of questions about you and your relationship history. The goal is to present themselves as the “perfect” match for you so that the online relationship can proceed quickly. The two of you are never going to meet, so the scammer needs to love-bomb you by saying all the right things and making all the right promises. It’s a lot of build up that leads to a hard crash. Beware of anyone who quickly falls head-over-heels with you, particularly when they have never met you. Real love doesn’t happen that way.

FaceTime: Speaking of meeting up, most sincere singles want to meet the object of their interest as soon as possible. If your new guy (or gal) delays a face-to-face meet-up or can’t make time for a video call, this is a huge red flag. Beware of the one who is suddenly called out of town or is already out of town but returning in a few weeks…or a few months…  Yes, there is a chance that a legit single could be traveling, yet if so, there is likely no valid reason he/she can’t spare some time for a video chat. Don’t waste time on someone who has no time to present themselves in tangible or virtual reality.

Personal Questions: One great way to catch a scammer is to get them to trip up over their own inconsistencies, this is why scammers keep turning the conversation back to YOU. It is nice to talk about ourselves, but don’t fall for this fake interest. The scammer doesn’t want to “trip up” so he/she will be reluctant to provide information outside of the superficial basics. Don’t give them a pass. Use the details provided on their profile (such as where they live, their hobbies, their pets) and flesh out more information. Ask the name of their favorite local restaurant or pub, where they work out, or details about where they went to school. While you’re talking, make notes of everything personal they share and ask questions. The scammer will try to turn the focus back on you, but be persistent. Google search everything that can be verified, and pay particular attention to inconsistencies and vague responses. If a guy says he lives in Boston, but can’t provide the name of his favorite pub (outside of Cheers), then you’ve probably got a scammer.

In closing, let me point out that it’s not only women who are targeted by catfishing casanovas. Men are actually considered an easier target and many scams are perpetrated by men putting up fake female profiles to lure in the lonely male. Until you meet in person, you cannot be sure with whom you are communicating. Be protective of your private information and keep things on a light emotional level until you have actually met your online romancer in person.