Published on February 10th, 2017 | by Monica Whitty

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Seven ways to avoid the romance scammers

In the build up to Valentine’s Day, and with hundreds of dating sites promising to find your perfect match, online dating is big business. But it would seem not everyone has the best intentions.

Our Cyberpsychologist Professor Monica Whitty has been studying the way people behave in cyberspace over the past 15 years, examining identities created in cyberspace, online security risks and ways of detecting and preventing cybercrimes.

Here are Monica’s tips to ensure you don’t fall victim to the romance scammers this Valentine’s Day.

  1. Avoid spending too much time online getting to know a potential date, arrange to meet them face-to-face in a ‘safe’ space as soon as possible – be suspicious if they give excuses as to why they can’t meet.
  2. Check the authenticity of their profile using a reverse image search. Upload their photo to https://www.tineye.com/ or https://ctrlq.org/google/images/) and see what results you get. Not everyone is who they might seem, they may have even used someone else’s photo.
  3. Don’t ever send money or gifts such as phones or computers to someone you’ve met online. However small or insignificant they may seem, someone genuine wouldn’t ask you for money.
  4. Avoid getting too swept away in the moment of an online romance. Remember when they remain online they can appear more perfect and ideal than they really are.
  5. Don’t engage in sexual webcam interactions or send photos – these may be used to blackmail you, and you don’t know where else they might end up or who might see them.
  6. Get family and friends involved in screening your dating choices.
  7. Be careful about what personal information you give out to strangers, for example anything that identifies where you live or work.

If the worst should happen…

Don’t feel embarrassed if you do slip up – every type of person has been tricked by scams such as these. You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last. Don’t be afraid to get help. Talk to your family or friends, and if you’re really suspicious, or don’t feel safe go to the police.

Finally, trust your instincts, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

Take action…

If you’ve been duped it’s important to take simple steps to protect your personal details that could then be used by fraudsters to target your identity. Change your passwords, consider changing your email address and telephone number, and contact your bank for advice.

Professor Whitty and her team are currently investigating ways to prevent romance scams. If you’ve been affected, and are keen to make sure others don’t fall victim contact Professor Whitty at MW@warwick.ac.uk.

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Professor Monica Whitty is a cyberpsychologist, whose research, over the last 15 years has focused on the ways individuals behave in cyberspace. Her work, in particular, examines: identities created in cyberspace, online security risks as well as detecting and preventing cybercrimes (e.g. mass-marketing fraud, insider threats).

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