I am recently divorced, and I joined a couple of online dating sites. I am 53 years old and, honestly, Carolyn, I got a bit lonely. My children are grown and out of the home. I have a dog, but I miss male companionship. So online, I met this man who was interested in me. Our texts were great, and he was so complimentary of my photos online. I told him a lot about myself, including about my divorce and spousal support. I sent him a photo at his request I should not have sent. He was from another country, and he wanted to meet me. So, I sent him some money for plane tickets. After he received the money, I never heard from him again. I went to the police, but they told me to stay offline. They couldn’t do anything. What happened? What did I do wrong? How do I avoid this in the future?
This is a huge problem with the proliferation of online dating websites. Some people are successful in finding relationships, so using the best of the dating websites can be OK if certain rules are followed: Here are the Ask Carolynrules for using an online dating website.
- Use only reputable well-known sites that screen for scammers. Two such ones are eHarmony and Elite Singles, and there are others. Write if you want my opinion on other sites.
- Text for a while on the dating site before giving your phone number. The great sites screen for red flags. Watch for misspelled words, such as a person whose really does not know your language.
- After texting for some time on the dating site, get the full name of the other person before giving out your name. Do a simple background check to verify the person, which could be LinkedIn or Facebook or “images” on Google.
- After giving your phone number, require that you talk on the phone, not just text. Many scammers will not talk to you. They stop texting if you demand a phone call instead of a text.
- If you meet, meet in a familiar, public place to you. Arrive either in your own car or Uber-type service and leave the same way. Hopefully, you will know a waiter or the manager, and you can tell them you are meeting a date that you do not know.
- Don’t leave your purse or drink on the table while you go to the restroom.
- Be careful of talking too much about your ex, divorce or divorce settlement. That could set you up as a target for extortion or blackmail.
- Do not give out private-type pictures. All pictures should be business or casual photos fully clothed.
- Do not give out financial information or personal identifying information, such as a driver’s license or Social Security number. Never send money to an online stranger.
- Run a background check with a local private investigator before you go out alone with the person in their car, or you have them at your home.
A good person will understand why you want to follow these rules. Good luck and do not send money ever again.
Send your family law and divorce questions to “Ask Carolyn…” at firstname.lastname@example.org, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro, NC 27427. Please do not put identifying information in your questions. Note that the answers in “Ask Carolyn” are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need in your individual case. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by “Ask Carolyn…”