Once again, at age 65, I consider myself a novice at dating in real life.
Let me explain.
I met my first husband in high school in the Spanish class we had. We started dating in my sophomore year and got married nine years later. That first marriage ended in divorce some 14 years later.
That year, after my first husband had walked out, I gave myself internet for Christmas.
I met my second husband in an AOL chatroom when the internet was accessed via your phone lines and tended to time out after a few hours. For those of you who never experienced this frustration, you would make sure to let people know not to call during specific hours so that the incoming call would kick you off the internet. Then, you waited in front of your computer monitor and listened to the ERNT – ERNT – ERNT sound of the computer connecting to the internet. If you were lucky, it connected the first time.
With the enormous number of chatrooms on AOL, it’s a wonder that my second husband and I met at all. At that time, photos were not taken with your cellphone nor were selfies a thing. I had no idea if he looked like he had described himself.
We decided to meet face-to-face about four months after our first chat. We had been chatting one-to-one and talking on the phone late at night to minimize long-distance charges. In those early days of the internet, I had taken a workshop on internet safety. After hearing some of the horror stories, I was grateful for all I had learned. My late husband lived in the Minneapolis area and I in the Rockford area. Knowing how to be safe led me to feel safe enough to drive to Minneapolis and meet him.
We were together for 24 years – married for 22 ½ of those years – before he became a victim of COVID.
Now I find myself looking at the social media and digital dating pool once again. Last year, I joined some “singles” groups on social media. Sometimes I get a direct message, but most of the time communication is kept to the group posts. Do I take things one step further into the dating pool? Do I use one of the many dating apps to find someone who is willing to live life on my terms? I was lucky with my second husband, or maybe I should say I weeded out all the undesirables quickly, but can I avoid the scammers in this decade?
The tips I learned in that internet safety workshop in the late 1990s are still useful today: Don’t give someone your full name. Don’t give out any vital information. And, if someone, or something, is too good to be true, it probably is a scam.
HOW TO SPOT A SCAMMER
Dating scammers are everywhere out there, not just online. They pretend they are someone they aren’t; they use stolen photos; they shower you with compliments. How do you know whether the person you are chatting with on social media or on an online dating app is the person they say they are?
There are some clear clues that indicate someone may not be who they say they are.
#1 The message they send makes no sense.
Many scammers are not native English speakers and have difficulty communicating in comprehendible sentences. This also includes a large percentage of misspelled words (or typos).
#2 Single-word responses
Many scammers respond with single words like “nice” or “ok.”
Him: How r u?
Me: I’m doing good. How are you?
Him: How was your day?
Me: The day was long and busy.
Many times the scammer’s response makes absolutely no sense to what you just said.
#3 Ask questions, but never answer questions
They ask numerous questions about you and your life. When you ask them questions, they rarely answer.
#4 Move to Whatsapp or a different chat program.
They want you to move your conversation to a different platform like Whatsapp because they are not usually on this specific social media or chatroom, or they can’t use this social media platform because of their work life.
#5 Immediate response required
They want immediate responses from you. If they don’t get it, they start typing things like “Are you there?” or “Why don’t you answer?” The other tactic is to ask, “Don’t you like me?” or turn that into a statement, “You don’t like me.” In doing this, they are starting to control your time.
#6 Turning the conversation to sex
It seems common for many scammers to turn the discussion to your sex life and what you like regarding sex. They might use the word romance or romantic. They may ask you if you like “X,” “Y,” or “Z.” This usually happens within the first 20 to 50 conversational exchanges.
#7 Ask for money.
Many scammers will press you to send them money in one way or another. They give you sob stories about not having enough money for groceries, but when you look up information about a food bank, they don’t want that help. They use the story of a child being sick, or even an elderly parent. They say that they need to send you the check so that you can put it in the bank, and then they want you to give them the bank account information.
THESE ARE ALL SCAMS.
NEVER – IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM – SEND SOMEONE YOU ONLY KNOW ONLINE MONEY. Not even a gift card. Don’t give them bank information, credit card information, or anything like that.
#8. Do your research
Take a moment to check the profile information of the person you are talking to (or starting to talk to). There are certain key items in a scammer’s profile: a top-secret job, they work for the government, they work for the FBI, they are the head CEO of a company you have never heard of. Even the country they list living in can be suspect. Google their name. See what you can find. And pay attention to what they are saying.
If you do choose to meet someone you have been talking to online, take the following precautions.
-make sure it is a safe, public place with lots of people around
-make sure a large number of people know where you are going and why
-set up a friend to call you about 15 minutes after the meet-up time just to give you the opportunity to leave
-drive yourself to the meetup location – heck, even take a friend with you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about dating in the digital age and dating apps.
Please take a moment to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.
Until next time . . .
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