I’m going to start by stating the obvious.
Dating. Is. Hard.
As a twenty-something single person, I can tell you dating is insane right now. Not because the divorce rate is up or that more workers are prioritizing their careers or that people have just given up on love altogether. Each of those things may be true, but the growing number of online dating options could be what’s really complicating love connections, especially during a pandemic.
Dating sites allow daters to meet and communicate online, opening new doors to anyone on the search for romance. Unfortunately, some of those doors lead to scammers.
I don’t blame those who fall for romance scams.
For the past year, we’ve been told to lay low, stay inside and only spend time with people in our households. Let’s just say, there is something to be desired there. For those who are single, it can be painful not to have that special person to lean on in these hard times. With many events, restaurants and bars closed, online dating is pretty much the only option to find someone right now.
I can absolutely relate. When I was on these sites, the dream of romance was the only thing that got me excited. You could probably have called me a serial dater. I went on dates left and right with people I met online. I was new to Boise, didn’t know anyone and was desperate to find someone I could spend some quality time with.
Dating sites and mutual friends on social platforms gave me the tools I needed to chat with people online and figure out if they shared common interests before deciding to meet up or move on. This was a nearly weekly deal for me. I was going out, meeting people, excited and full of hope, only to be let down.
Hey, I almost did it, too!
Courtney is the name and Bumble was the game. I chose the platform because ladies get to make the first move. While I am old school when it comes to dating, this seemed a little safer to me. So, I did what most millennials do and started swiping.
David’s profile said he was a 25-year-old grad student, loved podcasts, dogs, the great outdoors and drinking wine. Score! Only problem, he didn’t really have any good photos of himself. No mind, it’s personalities that count, right?
As a total music junkie, I started by asking him who is favorite band was. My go-to question. His response was something smooth and mysterious like, “I don’t really confine myself to one favorite band.” Quickly we began chatting about dogs, wine and all his favorite podcasts.
After a day or two of chatting on the app, David gave me his number. “I’m tired of opening the app every time I want to chat with you,” he’d say. I’m not one to give out my number to a total stranger. So, I invited him to either follow me on Instagram or meet me in person before I gave him my number.
He seemed less than thrilled but followed me on Instagram instead. His profile included the same five photos as his Bumble profile and all the photos were uploaded the same day he followed me. I couldn’t help but think, did he create an Instagram just to talk to me?
As if that weren’t weird enough, he could never meet up. We would make plans to connect and, like clockwork, he would have to cancel an hour before our scheduled meetup time. After the third time he bailed on me, I was over it. I felt like I was putting too much effort into meeting up with someone I didn’t even know. I stopped responding to his messages, leaving him on “read” so that he might get the message.
After a week or two of not talking, he reached out to tell me he had to go to Lebanon to go pick his little brother up from a mission. He had gotten sick while he was there, and he apologized for not reaching out.
Mind you, I hadn’t responded to a single message for a month at this point. He told me that he would be back in a week and he wanted to meet up when he got back. I responded with, “Okay, safe travels.” Not a week later, he messaged me saying his brother had gotten into some trouble with the law and he needed $5,000 to bail him out. I immediately blocked him.
Pandemics don’t change a thing
Just because we’re in a pandemic, doesn’t mean people who are ready to date aren’t going to date. It also means that scammers are still trolling these sites, maybe even more than usual.
The thing about scammers is, they prey on people’s vulnerabilities. The struggles of a single person during something like a pandemic are a goldmine for a con artist. Now that single people have more time to spend on these sites, they might even be harboring connections with you for months over the phone and using the pandemic as a reason not to meet up. Identifying red flags is key to online dating during these crazy times.
Identifying the red flags.
Okay, so clearly “David” wasn’t really into me. He just wanted to scam me out of money. There were red flags, though, and I am so lucky I recognized them.
He quickly moved off the dating site. A catfisher will try very quickly to communicate through email, messenger, or phone. I have a rule that if I haven’t met them in person, they don’t need to know any personal information about me.
He didn’t ever meet me in person. It’s easy to think, “Oh, they’re just busy.” The reality is, they’re probably nowhere near you and can’t meet up.
He had a hard luck story. Lebanon? Not sure why he chose that country but asking for money from someone you don’t know is a huge NO. If anyone you haven’t established a tight-knit, personal, face-to-face relationship with asks you for money, delete, block, throw away your phone, change your number, whatever. There is a 99% chance they’re scamming you.
It can happen to ANYONE.
Even after that strange interaction, I don’t have anything against dating sites. I have met some incredible people this way, but I have also come across some creeps, crazies and I’m sure more than just one scammer. So, there you go. A very average young woman who works for Better Business Bureau can also be targeted by one of these scams.
I feel especially grateful to work for an organization like BBB at this point in my life. Working in an environment where talking about scams is so normal has been key to my success in not falling for them.
I realize whoever is reading this likely doesn’t work for BBB, in which case, come join our team, we rock! But also, there are resources for you. BBB Scam Tracker is an incredible resource for anyone who might be getting scammed. It can be completely anonymous, so don’t be afraid to drop your story there.
Moral of my story: stay safe (especially during a pandemic) and don’t send money to someone you met online.