More and more people are turning to online dating and social media platforms to meet people and possibly find their one true love.
It seems like recently more and more women are coming out to say they have been swindled, is this true or has it been happening for a long time?
Online dating and other platforms have a history of being associated with people having negative experiences from people not being honest about themselves (e.g. using old photos of when they were much younger, lying about their age) to fake profiles, being catfished and scammers like the infamous Tinder Swindler.
Where do most swindlers scout for their victims outside online dating sites?
Any online platform where you can interact with other profile users can be a place for perpetrators looking for unsuspecting victims (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Gaming or Virtual reality platforms and chatrooms).
The swindlers do not just go to anyone. How do they spot their victims?
Swindlers will usually search for profiles of people or individuals known to be more vulnerable, such as single women, people that are lonely/isolated, or those less familiar with technology such as the elderly, as they are more susceptible to being taken advantage of.
How can one spot the red flags and ignore them? Also, how does it start?
Some common red flags to look out for are:
- Profiles where there is a man in a military uniform, sometimes they have a dog, and use their military service of being stationed in some remote place (like Afghanistan), being lonely and wanting a friend to talk to as a way to prey on victims.
- Look at when the profile was created and the dates of the pictures posted, if they were all uploaded on the same date and time vs over a period of time (e.g. years), it’s probably a fake profile as no one uploads all their photos and social activities in one go.
- If a person randomly connects with you and wants to be friends and get to know you.
- A message or email saying that you are named as a beneficiary in someone’s Will and you need to provide documentation (e.g. ID, passport, bank details etc) for them to release the funds.
- A random message or email from someone claiming to be from your bank and they are wanting to update their security measures to keep your accounts safe so they need to assist you in updating your personal details over the phone.
- If the person in the photo’s is extremely good looking (e.g. look like a supermodel or celebrity) or a successful businessperson (e.g they have posted pictures of them on yachts, planes and fancy cars or restaurants) they could be using fake photos to portray a lavish lifestyle that is not real.
What form of manipulation do the swindlers use?
They manipulate individuals over a period of time into trusting them by pretending to be friendly, or interested in them to gain their trust and extract information that they will then use to scam them later on down the line.
They do this over a period of time to gain the person’s trust by sharing information about themselves that makes them seem vulnerable and building the relationship with the unsuspecting person. They may talk about personal things like how they have no family or friends, or how they’ve been through a challenging period, or have experienced some kind of traumatic event such as a severe illness or loss or they how they do not have a relationship with their children due to their Ex being volatile and denying them access.
They can also resort to love bombing, showering the person with compliments, appreciation, admiration, sometimes even give gifts to build the person’s trust and profess their undying love.
Usually they also try and isolate victims from their family and friends and get them away from anyone that can influence the victim to see what is happening.
Common things that victims get asked for is money, airtime, data, travel fare (planes, trains, taxi, uber etc) or expensive gifts (e.g perfume, jewellery) that they can resell or regift to their next unsuspecting victim.
How can one make it stop once they see that they are being swindled?
Make the person aware that you know they are scamming you, exit the conversation and report the person to the platform security / administrators. You may also want to block them from interacting or contacting you again to protect yourself from falling prey to their manipulative behavior.
How does it affect the victims in their next relationship that has the potential of being genuine?
A person that has been scammed before may have trust issues and find it difficult to believe when someone is being genuine in their interactions and intentions. It can also make someone very suspicious and on their guard all the time which can be stressful and unhealthy.
If they have suffered a financial loss from the incident, it can have an impact on their mental and financial wellbeing as they try and recover from the impact thereof as well as the shame and stigma that comes with it. It can have a severe impact on their self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence.
Do other people actually stay in relationships where they know they are used, and why?
People may stay as they are so deeply manipulated that they don’t know how to get out of the situation and may have even developed genuine feelings for the perpetrator (known as Stockholm syndrome). Some people may stay because they are afraid of being lonely and alone or they genuinely believe the person loves them and can even become defensive when the perpetrators motives are questioned.
If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut. If you’re unsure ask a trusted person to help you work through what is going on and whether something seems off about it, or seek the help of a professional.
Paula Quinsee is the Founder of Engaged Humans, facilitating connection between men, women, and couples. She is a certified Imago Relationship Therapy Educator and Facilitator, NLP Practitioner, PDA Analyst, Coach and Trainer Paula is also the author of 2 self-help guides: Embracing Conflict and Embracing No as well as an international speaker, advocate for mental health and activist for gender-based violence. For more info: www.engagedhumans.com