Online Dating Scams as Prevalent as Ever

Online dating has emerged as one of the most popular ways to meet a romantic partner in the United States. In fact, one-third of all couples married after 2005 met each other online. Though online dating has grown in popularity and can lead to happy relationships, it's also become a widely-used platform for scammers to extort individuals for money. The FBI reports that online dating scams cost Americans over $50 million dollars each year.

Examples of these "romance scams" are plentiful. The Washington Post recently published a story about a Maryland woman's experience with an online scammer who claimed to be serving in the U.S. military. Like many, the woman, named Dede, was drawn to online dating because of situational circumstance. Her occupation primarily employs women, and at 60, opportunities to meet men in traditional social settings didn't seem practical. So when she met 58-year old "Mark" online, who claimed to be in the Army, she was hopeful.

However, her relationship with Mark was soon defined by the tell-tale signs of an online dating scam. Mark told her was being deployed to Afghanistan shortly after their relationship began, and then noted that he preferred texting to talking on the phone or using video chat. Later on, he revealed that he didn't have the money to insure a valuable item that needed to be shipped home, and in a roundabout way made clear that thousands of dollars of Dede's money would be needed.  It was at that point Dede realized she'd fallen victim to a scam.

Mark's use of a military façade is a growing trend among online dating scammers, the Army Criminal Investigation Command reports; the ACIC receives hundreds of dating scam allegations involving supposed servicemen each month. The actual man in Mark's dating profile photo, Raymond Chandler, is a top military official (happily married) whose photo has been used by other scammers on a plethora of dating sites.

The continued prevalence of online scammers and their evolving tactics further underscores the value of identity verification, or self-authentication, which would have notified Dede right from the start that Mark wasn't who he said he was.  Self-identity verification, which include a federal and state background check, can be secured for both parties involved in an online relationship. Those interested in online dating can register for their own personal background check and then, at their choice, privately and securely exchange credentials with those they meet online.

Online dating can be an effective approach to meeting people, but only when done in a safe manner. While today's scammers are relying on military façades, who knows what tactics they'll attempt next. Save yourself the hassle and heartache of falling victim to a scam, and approach online dating the safe way: If you are willing to provide identity verification, you should expect the other person to do the same thing.