Online Imposters

How to Spot Online Imposters

Fun fact about me: in my twenties, I tried online dating. Back then, online dating was new and taboo. Like Fight Club, the first rule was don’t talk about it; lie about where you met. It was as if I had become a member of some clandestine society, wearing this figurative offline cloak of secrecy. Not only did I not discuss it, I certainly would’ve never considered writing about it. But, here I am and frankly, the statute of limitations has expired. So let’s take a long hard look at online imposters and how to protect yourself from them.

More is Not Always Better

Keep in mind, two decades ago there were only a few players in the online dating market, a stark contrast from today.

It didn’t matter if you were seeking a fellow dog lover, or a faith-focused Christian, maybe even a partner who was living the farm life there was no online platform bigger than Match.com. Yet, their online community was a collective of all walks of life, so niche preferences didn’t make the cut on any drop-down fields when building a profile or searching the profiles of others.

While the online market is filled with countless additions since then, no matter what the URL they all do have something in common—online imposters.

They are filled with attractive men and women, seemingly looking for a committed relationship. They have bios that speak to every disservice or pain-point any reader has or ever will encounter in a relationship.  

This is the first of many red flags.

Can you relate? You read her profile and wonder how she can possibly be single? She’s only 66 miles away. You begin to think you’d travel for someone this incredible. Suddenly your distance deal breaker is negotiable because this woman shouldn’t be single, but you’re glad she is.  

Listen to Your Instincts

This is where I go back to my great-grandmother’s advice (this will be a common reference in my blogs) that lives with me 30+ years later.

If it’s too good to be true, it is.

If you are online, it’s safe to say you have yet to find one single person that captures just a few of your wants. Then all of a sudden, here comes someone who seemingly possesses everything you are looking for. It’s a catch-all sales tactic most often seen on late-night infomercials.    

Okay, so you messaged the wildly attractive no-way-they’re-real profile...no judgement here! I admire people who believe the glass is half-full. However, there are countless good-hearted people who have been scammed by online imposters, so I must advise you to be skeptical as you move forward. 

If within the first few messages you notice any of the following red flags, I urge you to end the conversation and move on: 

  • They give you a different name from the one on his profile.They’re likely on several sites under different aliases.
  • He invites you to message using an app like WhatsApp or Kik
  • They tell you they’re not officially divorced. It’s likely their spouse is not even aware they’re unofficially divorced.
  • Their original location was local, but after you connect, they are traveling abroad, usually urgently.
  • They ask what you do for a living, specifics about your family, what zip code you live in, but refuse to answer the same or similar questions. Ever hear of stranger danger?
  • Beware when you ask a specific, yet common question about their hometown. For example, I once asked a man from Chicago if he was a Cubs or Sox fan. He replied that he wasn’t into basketball.

If your intuition is alerting you to stranger danger, it’s time to listen.  

Spelling & Grammar

Many online imposters will use exceedingly poor spelling and grammar despite often boasting post-graduate degrees. Pay attention, this is where the journalist in me kicks in. It’s one thing to have a misspelling here and there. No telling, they may be on the go, in a hurry, or maybe they just have fat fingers, who knows? 

Does their language style and conversation skills match the profile they’re portrayed? The improper use of words and verb tenses, as well as bizarre punctuation are all big red flags. If your intuition hasn’t kicked in just yet, well, I’m trying to help you here!   

Why are there so many online imposters? What can they possibly gain? There are a million reasons why someone is online and maybe they’re bored just like you? But, other reasons can be far more dangerous and deceitful. 

Use Common Sense

If you met someone in a bar or a social event and they asked you deeply personal questions in a very short time period, it should sound an alarm. Gut-instinct is something we are all born with, but it's a conscious choice as to whether or not we listen and allow it to guide us.  

Be weary of anyone that asks you to talk in great detail about yourself. It’s easy to feel flattered that another person is eager to learn about you. No one can fault you for loving the attention, but don’t lose your sensibilities in the process. We have all been living in quarantine for the last year, so it’s easy to get caught up in compliments, if even you know they’re coming from an online imposter.  

These imposters are very good at what they do. They quickly build a connection with you from what you tell them. The information you give them in conversation is used to craft a script that speaks to your heart. They want to hook you and leave  you with the impression that this stranger truly cares about you.

I’m sorry, but...

Online Imposters Do Not Care About You

Sadly, they craft messaging around the very private information you share with them. You could go on wasting your time or worse, losing money. Some ask for you to send them unused gift cards, bank account information with the end goal—money. Don’t fall for the scheme. 

You are talking to a scam artist, not your future husband or wife. In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received thousands of reports of romance scammers who created fake online relationships only to steal their victims’ money. 

Signs of a scam are always evolving, but the FTC boiled it down quickly:

  • Tell you they love you quickly.
  • Are from the U.S. but are overseas either for business or military.
  • Ask for money in an attempt to lure you off the dating site.
  • Promise to visit but an emergency prevents them from doing so.

Please be smart. While I’m warning you, I’m not the U.S. government, and even they know this is dangerous territory.  

View the FTC’s report here.

When you’re online, lead with your head, not your heart. All of the cues we are privy to in person: body language, mannerisms, eye contact or validation of one’s appearance are absent online. An online photo on a dating site isn’t confirmation that someone looks like that today or ever.

So, whatever method you opt to use to find love, be sure to properly vet them or employ others to do the work for you. It’s a jungle out there, so arm yourself with your weapons of gut-instinct and common sense. It will help save your heart and perhaps, your wallet!  

Stay safe in your quest for love, 

Jodi 

*If you feel as if you have been a victim of an online dating scam, please report your incident to reportfraud.ftc.gov and the respective online dating site.