If you’re divorced, you might be itching to find love again, especially if you experienced years of an unhappy marriage. But your search for love can also make you appear vulnerable to scammers on online dating sites, and your profile may be showing more information about you than you realize.
“Don’t give away too much about yourself – don’t tell them everything,” said Linda, a 54-year-old divorcee, who has been scammed three times via online dating sites. “They watch what you do for a living and look for women who are caregivers like nurses or teachers. It tells them that you are selfless, and soon enough they’ll be asking you for money.”
Linda, whose last name has been omitted to protect her privacy, was married for 28 years and separated a year ago. She was optimistic about the potential of online dating, as it could connect her to men outside her small, rural town outside of Boston, MA. But within days of her creating a profile on a popular dating site, she met her first scammer.
“He fell in love with me overnight,” Linda said. “He would say, ‘You’re so wonderful, I think I’m falling in love with you,’ without even having met him. But honestly, it felt good to hear that, at least in the beginning.”
Her suitor told her he was from Greece and lived in New Jersey, working as a contractor. They talked over the phone for two months, but every time they would plan to meet, he would cancel at the last minute. Linda felt something was off about him after he asked her for money, so she hired a private investigator to check him out. She was shocked to find out that her potential love was a 20-year old from Nigeria, who had a history of scamming women for money.
“I was upset, but I used it as a learning experience,” she said. “But I worry that if another woman goes through that, it could mess her up.”
Unfortunately, many women (and men) do go through it. Romance scams cost nearly 5,900 victims more than $86.7 million last year, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. A 2014 study conducted by AARP found that certain negative life experiences such as feeling isolated/lonely, divorce, or family/relationship problems put people at risk for being scammed online.
“After exchanging personal messages for some time,” the AARP study reports, “the person starts talking about wanting to visit, however they need money to be able to make the trip or they need money for another emergency purpose. Eventually, you quit hearing from the person and are out all the money you sent.”
Therefore, what you write in your dating profile can be huge indicator to scammers that you are vulnerable, need rescuing, or willing to give money to a love interest just to hold on to them.
Some indicators you should avoid in your profile:
- Sharing too much about your divorce journey
- Particular language that shows you are sad or lonely
- Too many pictures of you alone or pictures of your pets
- A picture of a deceased loved one saying how much you miss them
- Showing that you are a care taker such as a nurse or teacher, or that you like to rescue animals – this means you have a big heart and are willing to go that extra mile to help others
But managing the language of your dating profile is still a defensive method to fend off scammers and bad guys. To take more proactive measures, you can actually investigate and rate your date using the online site, Undolus.com. Founder Kala Spigarelli chose the site’s name based on the Latin word Dolus, which means ‘deceit’ or ‘trickery.’
“My sister and I were tired of seeing women get scammed or hurt in the dating process,” said Spigarelli, who cofounded Undolus.com with her sister. “So we created a website that empowers women with the tools to investigate their date, as well as anonymously share their dating experiences within a closed, women-only membership platform.”
The website gives you important details about your date including his name and address, date of birth, criminal record, as well as property and business ownership information. It will also tell you if he has filed for bankruptcy or if he’s been evicted, as well as other pertinent information you won’t be able to find with a Google search.
“The idea is genius,” said Linda, who met two more scammers following her encounter with the so-called Greek man from New Jersey. “I want other women to know about these guys. It will save everyone from so much time, heartbreak, and hopefully money.”
Think of Undolus.com as the TripAdvisor to dating, where you can search the name of the man you are dating, and see if he has a profile of good or bad reviews. But unlike the travel site, you aren’t allowed to bash your date or use slander. Rather, you are asked to answer a number of questions like, “Did he call after the first date?” which will tally your feedback and rate his dating potential.
Spigarelli warns newbie or post-divorce daters, particularly women over 50, to be cautious and proactive. “Don’t just be a sitting duck and wait for something bad to happen,” Spigarelli said. “Now you can do something about it. Take charge and know who you’re dating, before you fall in love.”
Lindsey Ellison is a relationship coach and founder of Start Over. Find Happiness., a coaching practice that helps men and women navigate their divorce or break-up, and find a life they truly love.