How often do you find yourself scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed when, suddenly, a friend suggestion pops up out of the blue? But this isn’t just any friend suggestion. This is someone you might know.
For someone looking for love, this could be the sign they’ve been waiting for.
But what about romance and dating scams on Facebook? Is this really a sign, or is it a red flag?
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), romance and dating scams reached a record high in 2021. In the past 5 years alone, people looking for love have lost $1.3 billion to dating scams. With Covid, dating went more virtual than ever, and the FTC saw an increase of nearly 80% in dating scams in 2021 (compared to 2020 data).
The average individual lost $2,400 in 2021 to romance scammers – almost 7 times higher than any other fraud type.
So how wary should you be of using Facebook for online dating? Let’s have a look.
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Is Facebook Safe to Use for Online Dating?
Facebook has opened up a whole new world for online dating, and with all these options available at the click of a button, it begs the question: How safe is Facebook?
Let’s put it this way. You don’t even have to be looking for love for people to find you.
Here’s a closer look at some of the more questionable features of Facebook and dating via Facebook:
People You May Know (Or Not)
Facebook has developed a People You May Know (PYMK) algorithm that can connect “strangers” based on minor and random similarities (like they lived in the same town once upon a time or have a mutual friend of a friend).
If a scammer stalks you, the PYMK algorithm may suggest them as a possible person to connect with. Remember, they just need to match a minor similarity – something that’s easily found when stalking you (especially if your profile is public).
These strangers can send you private messages. All they need is for you to show a little interest, and they dig in their claws.
Largest Privacy Security Penalty Worldwide
But wait there’s more.
Facebook breached a 2012 FTC order by falsely assuring their users about their ability to safeguard their personal information and privacy. As a result, the FTC implemented an order that an external assessor ensures Facebook adheres to their privacy program.
Facebook has been taken to task and must now conduct a privacy review of every single service or practice (including on WhatsApp and Instagram) before these are implemented.
Period Tracking App Violations
Certain women’s period tracking apps (such as the Flo Health app) were also reported for sharing personal info about women’s period and sexual practices on Facebook.
It’s no wonder scammers flock to the open fields of Facebook. All the hard work is done for them already.
Connecting Is Easy
Unlike other apps such as Tinder, Facebook allows users to comment directly on a potential love interest’s profile without waiting for both people to reach out or accept the other person’s message. Sometimes this connection happens even when your profile is set to private.
Scammers Targeting Victims Using Facebook
Why wouldn’t scammers use Facebook as a hunting ground? Facebook has more than 2.93 billion active users to choose from.
Another reason scammers target victims on Facebook is that the scammer can delete negative comments on their profiles or ads. They can also create other dummy profiles or friends to butter up their profiles, so they appear legit. Any negative comments or feedback will be removed, and the unknowing victim will fall for the “nice guy or girl.”
Did you know? Since 2019, almost half of all the romance scams reported to the FTC involved Facebook or Instagram, and most of them started with a Facebook message or a friend request.
Facebook Romance Scams: How Does It Work Exactly?
Not all scams are successful, but there are a few that certainly make it worth the cyber criminals’ while, and it keeps them coming back for more.
The FTC reported that financial losses from social media scams have gone up several million dollars each year, from $7 million in 2016 to $56 million in 2020. Fraud on social media is having a field day with $770 million in losses in 2021.
Clearly, the Covid pandemic has made the online world even more attractive to people who feel lonely and isolated from their friends and loved ones.
How Can You Protect Yourself From Facebook Dating Scams?
It is best if you protect yourself from romance and online dating scammers (those on Facebook and other social media and dating apps) to avoid heartache and an empty bank account.
Here are a few tips to help keep you safe:
Facebook Dating Scam - FAQs
Scammers have a few obvious signs, such as saying “I love you” soon after you have started chatting. They ask you for money with some sad story. They may go as far as to set up a Zoom call or WhatsApp call so you can see a “real person” on the other side.
When a profile is fake, they won’t have many photos on their feed. The profile seems over-the-top with an unrealistic bio. The newsfeed is blank and there is no option to send a message. Even though there is so little activity on their feed, the profile has plenty of “likes.”
Facebook Dating is legit and was created in May 2018. The dating feature is more casual than apps such as Tinder and is used more for hook-ups or short-term relationships.
The Facebook Dating feature is free. First download the Facebook app on an iPhone or Android device and then log in or sign up. The Dating feature is easy to launch:
- Open the Facebook app on your phone.
- In the shortcuts section, look for “Dating.”
- Tap on “Dating.”
- Select “Get Started.”
- Follow the prompts to create your profile.
If you can’t find the dating option on your Facebook, it could be because you aren’t using the Facebook app or you’re under 18. Unfortunately, if it’s the latter, you will need to wait until you are 18 before you can use this feature.
Final Thoughts on Facebook Dating Scams
While Facebook is free to use, these dating scams may take you for all you have (if you aren’t careful).
Everyone wants to find love, but online giants like Facebook are unable to realistically verify every single profile that’s created, and therefore, there are very real risks when joining their online dating community.
The best way to avoid romance scams is to use common sense. When a person is just too perfect or too good to be true, the truth is they probably are. So watch out.
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