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Twenty years ago internet dating was just for a handful of techie types.Now it has soared in popularity, with a You Gov survey finding 49% of men and 41% of women have used internet dating sites to find love.
According to the Better Business Bureau in the US, complaints about dating sites are increasing every year.The most common criticism is something these sites can't really be blamed for: bad matches.This isn't a huge shock given that the You Gov pollsters found 9% of people lied about their age and 7% about their weight, and that 64% of women agree with the statement that "some of the people who do it are strange". But in some instances, this goes beyond the little white lie to orchestrated, malevolent scams. They strike up a seemingly innocent relationship, and after they have drawn you in, they start asking for money.One common approach is the 'sick child' scam, where the online lover asks for a small sum for fundraising and if you pay, they start pushing for more and more.They may also ask for photos or for you to appear on the webcam, and then if you try to call a halt to the scam they threaten to blackmail you.So how can you avoid falling foul of these criminals?
There are some tell-tale signs: they avoid talking about their personal life in detail; they immediately want to start calling you 'babe' or something equally easy for them to remember; they move fast, and after investing a few weeks stringing you along, start asking for photos or money; their spelling and grammar is pretty awful; and they want to move off the site fairly quickly, preferring to get you to use instant messaging. Ask detailed questions about where they claim to live, and check out the answers.
If they take a minute or two to reply, they are looking it up, and if they are inaccurate, they are plucking an answer from thin air.
Ask for proper details of their life, and then Google them.
Most people have left a digital footprint somewhere, so be wary of anyone you cannot find.
Dating websites get in on the act But you don't need to fall victim to a scam in order to be ripped off by the process of finding love online.
The second biggest complaint is about high-pressure sales tactics. One of the biggest problems is individuals who felt they were tricked into a subscription, most commonly because they joined what they thought was a free service, and found that to use it properly they had to pay a fee.