Most of us who are fairly literate in the general online landscape probably consider ourselves to be somewhat savvy, the type of person who would never fall for something like an online scam.
We get spam emails asking us to invest in some foreign get-rich-quick scheme, and we unhesitatingly move them to the junk folder.
Maybe our grandma calls us to ask if she should wire money to someone who seems like they’re in need.
No, grandma, you shouldn’t. The answer is obvious to us.
But when it comes to online dating, scams often hit a little closer to our deepest vulnerabilities. The unpleasant truth is that they can happen even in the Catholic online dating world.
It seems that the need to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” is as real here as it is in other areas of our interactions with the world.
Here are three things to keep in mind in Catholic online dating to make sure you don’t fall prey to a scam.
1. A scam can happen when you least expect it
There is often a certain sense of security that comes from using a Catholic dating site. Hopefully, everyone here believes at least fundamentally the same things as you do. It’s comforting. Possibly too comforting.
Imagine a scammer looking to steal money from someone unsuspecting. It’s probably not too hard to figure out that users of Christian-based dating sites in particular will be looking to find the best in people and slower to suspect foul intentions.
In a way, this is our particular challenge as Christians and as Catholics. We don’t want to jump to premature conclusions about others. We should be striving to give the benefit of the doubt and think charitably towards others whenever we can in our everyday lives.
But that doesn’t mean we should suspend good sense.
2. Watch for the warning signs
It won’t always be obvious right away when you’re dealing with a scam. But, eventually they’ll ask for money, or possibly some personal information, to steal your identity. If they’re good at the scam, though, they’ll first build up your trust.
Now this is where it can get tricky for us. We don’t want to be overly suspicious of others, generally speaking. But if the person you’re messaging is a scammer, they’ll probably do something to let you in on it, if you’re paying attention.
Do they jump to strong professions of affection way faster than seems normal?
It’s flattering and ego-boosting to assume these professions are genuine. But take a realistic look at whether this person might be trying to get you emotionally attached in a big hurry.
Are they eager to move away from the dating site’s messaging platform right away?
There can be legitimate reasons to start messaging by phone or other means. But keep in mind that an over-eagerness to get away from the original site you connected on could be because they don’t want you to think to report their suspicious activity and get them kicked off the site.
Other things to watch for are inconsistencies in their background – either they mess up the details they’ve already told you, or perhaps the things they’ve told you aren’t the same as what their social media profiles say.
3. Don’t let yourself be fooled by a scam
Just because you strive to be charitable toward others and want to assume the best, that doesn’t mean you should let yourself be duped.
Be safe and take precaution, even if it feels a little paranoid.
Don’t hesitate to do a little online stalking of the person you’re communicating with. We online-stalk plenty of other people we’re curious about, right? So we might as well find out all we can about this person we’re interested in pursuing romantically.
If you have any suspicions at all about the person, perhaps go a little farther. Search for their profile image elsewhere online, to make sure it’s not a pic that a scammer has stolen from someone else.
If something feels just a bit off, trust your gut. Try talking the scenario out with a friend, and they might be able to help you put your finger on just what it is that’s not right here.
Never send money impulsively to someone, or agree to cooperate in some kind of money transfer situation.
Most likely, if a scammer has gotten to the point where they think it’s a good time to ask you for money, they’ve worked hard to build your trust and to make you feel like you’re on the way to marrying them.
If you feel inclined to believe a request for money is legit, again try running the whole thing past a friend for some feedback, lest you let your emotions get you in trouble.
It’s hard to find a balance between legitimate prudence and paranoia when it comes to matters like these.
But remember that being on your guard against cons doesn’t make you jaded or uncharitable. It’s merely self-preservation in our fallen world.