Something that makes Stitch unique is that we are very serious about keeping our members safe from online scammers. We watch every day as these con artists, gold diggers, and other criminals try to access our website; luckily, we have several security measures in place that keep our members safe. By watching them and by hearing so many member horror stories from scammers on other sites, we were able to put together a list of the top five tips for staying safe when meeting people online, especially if you’re using a website that does not do identity checks like Stitch.
5 Online Safety Tips
1. Do not give your personal information to someone before you’ve met in person
There’s no need to give anyone your phone number, add them on Facebook, Linkedin, or even say your last name before you’ve met in person. You do not want someone to be able to find you online, because if they are a criminal, they might be able to do enough digging to find you in real life. Furthermore, if you add this person on Facebook and then you post that you’re on vacation or out of town, this makes it very easy for a criminal to go and rob you. It’s all logical, but easy to forget! We want to trust people, so we give this information away freely. However, you’ll have to politely decline to answer these questions until you meet in person. If they try to force this information out of you, they’re not a good companion anyway!
2. Always meet in a public place
This is very, very important. Even if the person you are about to meet passes an identity and background check, your physical protection is most important. Always meet in a public place the first time you meet. No exceptions. Make sure there is plenty of light and that there are other people around. You just never know. If you meet them and they are 30 years older (or younger) and have a different hair color than their photos, you haven’t really been scammed, you’ve just been Catfished.
3. If their profile includes being in the military, be very careful
Oftentimes, scammers will choose to use photos of people who are in the military. They do this because a position in the military is highly respected and admirable. If you come across someone with military photos, do not share information until you meet them in person! Especially if this person says they are away on active military duty. That’s a common way for a con artist to take advantage of someone.
A member of Stitch told me about how she tried Tinder and connected with a man who claimed he was in the U.S. military. They spoke a lot, and after awhile he asked her to send him a package in Afghanistan. He told her it would have to be sent through a third party. When she spoke to the third party, they told her for “security” they needed to know her passport number, bank account numbers, and social security number. SCAM!
4. If your new companion is long-distance, get them to Skype or Facetime
So many people end up getting scammed because they don’t follow this simple rule. If someone is across a distance, you must video chat with them before sharing anything about yourself. This is because online scamming organizations will have different people working around the clock, some managing the profiles, and some who are asked to be the “over-the-phone” voice. The person on the phone is never the person you see in the profile. Because of this, they will make endless excuses about why they can not have a video chat with you. Don’t believe them!! Simply say that you can not talk further until you meet in person or over video chat.
That being said, we have had a lot of wonderful long-distance relationships develop on Stitch! That’s because members were verified before they could communicate and followed our tips about video-chatting before deciding to visit each other.
5. Google their name, photos, and email address
This is TOO easy to do, so there are no excuses! To Google a photo, right click on that photo and click “copy image URL.” Then, go to Google, and select “Images.” Click on the camera icon and paste the link you just copied. Scammers will almost always come up on Google because people who have figured out they are a scammer do the kind thing and post the information to save others from meeting the same fate. There are some great websites that do this like Pigbusters.net or Romancescams.org. One woman in Canada could have been saved from losing $10,000 if she had simply Googled this man. Read her story here.
Safety in Numbers
Another way to protect yourself is to meet up in a group! A group activity is a very low key, easy way to meet people. Even if you’re in a public place, meeting someone for the first time alone can be scary for many, especially for those who have been victims of an online romance scam. That’s one of the reasons Stitch introduced Group Activities. We want to easily facilitate member-driven group activities and events. For those Stitchers who aren’t comfortable meeting one-on-one, it’s the perfect solution. Read this blog post to hear more about it.
As great as the internet is, Stitch wasn’t made to keep everyone online all day! We want to make it as easy, safe, and unintimidating as possible for our members to meet in person and do the things they love to do. Since scammers can’t show up to a date or group activity, as they are usually in another country or a completely different person from the profile they created, meeting in person is always the way to go after an initial online connection.
I really hope that reading these online safety tips will help you and your loved ones avoid becoming another victim. We’ll continue to update our security requirements at Stitch as long as scammers are still out there.
If you’ve been scammed or caught a scammer trying to get you, please share your story below so that we can spread the word!