Sensitive Individuals May Be More Vulnerable To Online Dating Scams And Internet Liars

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Sensitive people tend to be more likely to get scammed on online dating sites. Pixabay, public domain

Every year, thousands of people are dragged into Internet scams through online dating sites. The scenario is pretty common: A scammer will pretend to be someone they’re not, profess their love to an unsuspecting romantic, then manage to weasel thousands of dollars out of them within a matter of months or sometimes weeks.

We should know by now that not all people we meet online are who they say they are, but new research shows that a certain type of person is more vulnerable to these scams than others. A study conducted by Dr. Martin Graff at the University of South Wales, and presented at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Nottingham, finds that sensitive people are far more likely to fall prey to online dating scams than others, suggesting that if you’re an overly-emotional type, you may want to be extra careful online.

“Perpetrators of dating scams simply set up false profiles on dating websites with the sole purpose of extracting money from their victims,” said Graff in a statement. “The scammer first grooms a victim by expressing love for them before outlining their desperate circumstances. They then attempt to request money from the victim. Our study focused on why some individuals are more likely to become the victims of these scams than others.”

Graff examined 90 people who had been victims of online dating scams, having them complete surveys about their personality, relationships to other people, self-esteem and emotional intelligence; their age and gender were also taken into account. He found that the participants had generally used dating sites for less than four weeks, and lost huge sums of money — from $75 to nearly $10,000.

When it came to personality traits, those more likely to be vulnerable to scams tended to be efficient and organized, even though they were more sensitive and had lower emotional intelligence. The victims were also more likely to express emotion and to become attached to or preoccupied with others, hinting that they may have a tendency to develop romantic interests quickly, seek approval and validation from romantic interests, and overlook potential red flags.

In 2011, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received 5,600 complaints about online dating scams. Some 70 percent of the victims were female, with the majority of them over the age of 40 and single, divorced, widowed, or disabled. Typically, a scammer will set up a fake profile that portrays an attractive person, then build a relationship with the victim over the course of weeks or months through e-mails, texts, or phone calls. The person will usually say they live in America, when in reality they’re located abroad. Then some tragic event will occur in which the scammer will repeatedly ask the victim to wire or send money abroad.

The FBI warns other behaviors could be a sign someone encountered online is actually a fake. It warns online daters to exercise caution with people who press you to take the communication away from the dating site to personal e-mail or social media; profess instant love; claim to be from the United States but currently live overseas; or who make plans to visit you that never materialize.

Perhaps what’s most scary is that a person on a dating site might believe they’re building a genuine connection with someone because the scammer is so effective at weaving their tale. “In the process of going back and forth, a scammer is going to try to figure out what makes a person tick, what their vulnerable spots are,” Jenny Shearer, an FBI spokeswoman, told CNN. “Because a victim has legitimate feelings, they might be inclined to offer financial support for the person.”

Graff hopes that the research will assist people in being more cautious when meeting people online, as well as law enforcement agencies in cracking down on scammers.

“With the rise in the number of people using online dating, more and more people are likely to fall victim,” Graff said in the press release. “Scammers use sophisticated techniques and eventually may begin to know exactly the sort of people to target and how to manipulate them. These findings will be beneficial to dating sites and law enforcement agencies in attempting to protect the vulnerable from being scammed.”

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