Thanks to 80-hour work weeks and people practically living on their phones, online dating is not as stigmatized as it used to be. With apps like Tinder being on every other twenty- or thirtysomething’s smartphone, dating someone you met online even gives you a bit of street cred, and it’s been estimated that one out of five people who got married in the past year met online. Many of our clients here on iRemit also met the loves of their lives in the same manner.
Still, online dating is not without its risks, and if you’re a white Aussie guy looking to engage in such, it would be in your best interest to take the following precautions so that you can steer clear of scammers:
1. Be aware that you are at risk.
As I’ve said, everyone is at risk, but scammers on dating websites have a preference for white men since all Caucasian foreigners are perceived by many people in the Philippines to be rich. Clearly, there’s no truth to that stereotype, but colonial mentality in the depressed areas reinforces it to this day.
Sometimes, Caucasian men over the age of 50 or 60 are targeted simply because they are seen as both more financially stable and more vulnerable to the charms of a much younger girl, so you may also want to bear that in mind if you fall into that category.
2. Pay attention to the other person’s use of the English language.
Very few Filipinos are 100% fluent, but a near non-existent command of the English language is a red flag, especially in a country where students are required to learn it in school and official government documentation favors the said language.
What does it mean when your date can barely count to ten in English? One, that she lacks basic education (or isn’t the brightest crayon in the box, to put it politely), so having a meaningful conversation with her will be impossible. (And what relationships have flourished with physical attraction as the only foundation?) Two, if she’s on a dating website where Pinays can meet foreigners and she hasn’t brushed up on her English, you can bet that she’s after something else, and it isn’t your sparkling wit or conversational skills, mate.
3. Google your date.
Before you go any further, check to see if your date is a real person to begin with. Type her name into a couple of search engines, and see what comes up. If she is who she says she is, you should find entries that corroborate the stuff she’s told you about herself, such as the list of graduates from a particular school or university with her name on it, her LinkedIn profile, etc.
Better yet, use the photo she sent you to confirm her identity. Lots of con artists swipe the Facebook profile photos of attractive women to attract their online dates, so you can upload these on a site called tinyeye.com to see where else the image may have appeared on the Internet. If the results reveal the image to be a stock photo or worse, that of a serial scammer, you ought to block the person and report the incident to the dating website administrator.
4. Keep an eye out for discrepancies on their profile.
Browse their uploaded photos and see if there’s anything that just doesn’t gel with what they told you about themselves. Check the landscapes in the background or even any visible clocks and calendars.
You should also check the level of activity on their dating profiles. If they told you that they’ve been away for a week but their profile reveals that they’ve been active for the past five days, chances are that they’ve very much been online and were probably chatting up other potential victims.
5. Touch base with them on Viber or Skype.
It’s a lot easier to trip up a fake when you’re on the phone or on a video call with them because they won’t have as much time to make things up. Skype video calls are especially helpful because they let you see what your date really looks like, and if you’re observant about non-verbal cues (e.g., incessant blinking, stammering, etc.), you can tell if they’re lying about something.
If your date keeps putting off scheduled phone or video calls with you, then that too should give you cause for concern, especially if the phone number they gave you doesn’t match the country and areas codes of the place they claim to live in.
6. Be wary of excessive sob stories and/or of immediate declarations of love.
You wouldn’t pledge your undying love to someone you’ve only met for a couple of days (or hours), nor would you inundate them with limitless complaints about your tuition fees, your sucky job, or the death of your grandmother/neighbor’s cousin/dog unless they asked, would you?
The same goes for online dates. A classic play made by scammers is the appeal to sentimentality and/or to pity. They’ll be all over you with the “I love you’s,” the “I miss you’s,” and the “I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you’s” barely two minutes after the first “Hello,” and/or they’ll whine about how much baby milk costs, how they’re barely making any money at their job, or how badly they want the new iPhone or Galaxy phone (!). Sadly, too many novices fall for this trick because, hey, swooping in and saving the day with your Australian dollars makes you her knight in shining armor.
Still, do you really want to be with someone who constantly whines about her life while expecting other people to fix it for her?
Okay, so maybe it’s possible that you two have hit it off right away and that she’s simply venting about a genuine emergency at home because she’s become so comfortable with you. How do you determine if she’s not buttering you up for money?
7. Watch out for the “catch.”Online dating scammers are way too savvy to ask for money outright. Instead, they reel you in with the sob stories and declarations of love mentioned in the past item, and then when they can sense that you’re really buying into it, they hit back with a statement like “I love and miss you dearly, and I’d love to see you this weekend, but I’m short on cash for a plane ticket because my neighbor’s grandmother’s dog died and I had to pay for its funeral. Do you think you could lend me the money so I can just pay you back when I get there?”
Decent Pinays have their own careers and their own money (and they take pride in having such), so if you come across someone who chats you up like that, best walk away while you can, buddy.
8. Never ever wire or otherwise transfer money over to a complete stranger.
Guys, this should go without saying. Shygirl0615 might make you feel like you’ve known her all your life and she might even make you feel all special, but always remember that the best hustlers are ace at never making their targets feel like they’re getting played.
So, unless you’ve spoken to her on the phone or met her in person several times, hold off on that money transfer.
We all have an innate need to feel loved and to belong to someone, but the best way to cultivate a loving relationship, be it online or offline, is to invest a great deal of quality time and effort in getting to know someone. You, my friend, should never feel obliged to invest in someone’s bank account or local Western Union branch for such things to happen.