Don’t get ‘catfished’ while dating online

Published Mar 8, 2013 at 04:00AM

Men and women older than 50 can feel quite vulnerable when it comes to dating online. Now, with the story of Manti Te’o’s imaginary romance appearing all over the news, both have become worried about getting “catfished.”

This happens when a man or woman uses a false identity to create a relationship that deceives the romantic heart and possibly the pocketbook of a virtual suitor.

So, if it could happen to this Notre Dame football star, what’s keeping it from happening to you?

Here are five tips for identifying “catfishers” and how to protect your heart from these online scammers:

Date closer to home

Limit the men or women you want to meet to those who live within a two-hour drive of your home. This is a manageable amount of driving time and leaves no excuses for not being able to meet right away.

Limit emails and phone calls

It’s very easy to get pulled into an email and phone relationship. Technology creates a false sense of intimacy and many men and women reveal far too much information about themselves at this stage.

Hearing their voice on the phone or seeing the beautiful poems and thoughts they write you daily creates an imaginary image of who this person really is. You start falling in love with an inaccurate picture you’ve painted in your mind of who they are. This is not who the real person is.

Meet sooner rather than later

You’ll want to meet a new match as soon as you can to see if those pictures you’ve created in your mind actually match the real person.

Excuses are red flags

If someone’s really interested in you, they’re going to want to meet quickly to see if there’s a spark between the two of you.

One excuse, whether it’s, “I’m sick,” or “I have a huge project due soon,” is fine. Beyond one excuse for not meeting, you are dealing with someone who may not be the person they say they are.

This is a HUGE red flag. Don’t let their beautiful poems and romantic thoughts and words keep you from seeing this.

If they ask for money, run!

People, who want to scam you usually play with your heart. They figure out what makes it sing and use this information to create a false relationship with you.

These scammers usually live on another continent and act as if they are in a situation that keeps them from getting access to their finances to come see you.

Or they tell you their child is sick, they have no access to their money and they really need your help. Women especially are touched by this and have a hard time saying no. It’s only a matter of time before they ask you to wire money and sadly, many do.

DON’T! If anyone asks you for money before meeting you, they are scamming you. End the email/phone pal relationship immediately and alert the dating site so they can block this person from the site.

We all want a love connection with someone special. Yet it’s that connection that makes us so vulnerable to the “catfishers” out there.

Avoid falling prey to these liars and schemers by using common sense and the tips I’ve shared with you.

If you aren’t sure about a situation with a man, share your story with a trusted friend. They aren’t emotionally attached to the daily emails filled with beautiful words and poems so they can offer you balanced advice on whether this person sounds like the real deal for you.

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