Online Dating – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Online Dating – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

birds dating - did they start online?

Online dating…a world fraught with peril.

Dating someone online can be exciting and fun, and for some can lead to a serious and committed relationship, but starting a relationship online is fraught with peril. The online dating scene has spawned a new breed of con artist who presents a false image to gain trust, targeting people who are looking for love or a relationship, and then exploiting that trust for their own gain.

The online dating scene has spawned a new breed of con artist who presents a false image to gain trust

For the con artist, the Internet is akin to shooting fish in a barrel: there are many easy targets. If you are considering the online dating world, or are already in an online relationship and thinking of pursuing a more serious commitment with your online-mate  in our physical world, read on.

The rules of the dating game are changing

Online dating is here to stay. Technology has enabled us to access more information than ever before, facilitating a new era for fraud or illicit activities. Like the common cold, scams are always evolving into something different each year. Changing our mindset and approach to personal protection in today’s technological world is essential.

Mr. “Wrong” – very easy to expose

I recently watched an episode on W5 that got me thinking. It was titled “Mr. Wrong” and was about three women, two of whom were wooed through an online dating site and the third given financial advice by Robert Kramar, a man with a significantly checkered and criminal past. His deception and betrayal cost these women about 500 thousand dollars. The sad part of this story was that Mr. Kramar’s shady past would have been revealed in less than 10 minutes of research for a fraction of what they lost. I have seen this far too often. Professionally and personally, men and women alike, become vulnerable to this type of financial and sometimes, emotional devastation.

Online romance is big business

Using various media sources for personal ads as part of the dating game is not new, so it’s no surprise that the Internet has been used as a dating tool since its inception. With as many as 40 million single Americans using online dating services it would seem that there has never been an easier time to find a partner. But Internet romance can be fraught with peril, ranging from liars to sexual predators, who hide their motives behind seemingly innocuous virtual identities.

There is good and bad to online dating

There are many advantages to online dating; you get exposure to people you would never have an opportunity to meet. As online use grows, so does the risk in meeting potential partners with ill intent. These people can hide in plain sight. They can create an embellished or fraudulent public persona through an online presence that few people have the skills or desire to authenticate.

Trust – the key to opening the treasure chest

An online dating con artist presents a compelling, artfully crafted persona designed to dovetail perfectly with your needs

Trust is one of our most treasured and guarded values. Trusting someone makes us vulnerable. I wouldn’t have it any other way; having trusted friends or a loving relationship can’t be beat, it’s the process of getting there that is critical. Compromising someone’s trust for illicit personal gain is the goal of some self-serving, depraved and sometimes criminal people. They seek to find out who you are, what you like and then present a compelling, artfully crafted persona designed to dovetail perfectly with your needs, desires, likes and dislikes. They then use that persona as bait to begin securing your trust – the essential ingredient of any con. Be careful with people that seem to have to many commonalities with you—it could turn out (as it did in the case of the women conned by Mr. Kramar) that they are too good to be true.

Cheers – where everyone knows your name

Traditional ways of meeting people through friends, family and social groups may pose less danger. A person coming from outside your group presents a higher degree of risk and an increased reliance on what they tell you about themselves that lacks the kind of corroboration you’d get from the opinion of family and friends.

Those who intend to mislead you do so by creating an embellished or fraudulent online profile. They rely on the public’s lack of desire or skill to investigate their background and concentrate their efforts on gaining trust. When you know how and where to look, it is not difficult to expose them.

When things start to go wrong

The reality of dating is that sometimes things can go wrong. Google is not the appropriate database to reliably search the background of a person you want to know more about. Finding judgments, divorces, and financial and/or legal problems in your intended partner’s past are critical pieces of information, especially if they are being hidden. An investigator trained in advanced Internet research can uncover potential “red flags”—associations, patterns of behaviour, and reputation—which become important in assessing a person’s character and background. People trying to hide their past will try to legitimatize who they are. A dating or premarital background check will verify that the person you are in a relationship with is who the claim to be.

About the Author

Pat Fogarty is a former organized crime investigator now leading Internet research and investigations at Fathom Research Group. Read more about Pat.