Cyber Love Can Come With Tricks
CHARLOTTE, NC- It's big business, but it comes with big risks.
Every month, more than 120 million people look for love online, dishing out over one billion dollars in memberships in 2011 alone.
But thousands got tricked by bogus profiles.
"This was not the woman that was in the picture. Shorter version, much rounder version. Less shape," said Bill Dixon, a North Charlotte resident.
Misleading pictures are a common theme in Bill Dixon's online dating horror stories. He turned to cyber dating after his divorce twelve years ago and says 90 percent of the women he meets online are liars.
"Nothing in her profile said that she was an animal lover. But when I got to her house, there were about 20 or 25 cats wandering around the apartment," said
Experts say the "Cat Woman" is on the lighter side of cover ups and lies.
"I make $250,000 to $500,000 a year. I have a yacht in San Tropez. I have a private plane that I can take you around the world on. People get sucked into that because it sounds likes 'oh my gosh this guy is so amazing and my life is going to change," said Julie Spira, online dating expert and author of The Perils of Cyber Dating.
Spira warns about the most common tricks.
"Somebody from another country who is planning to come visit you in the states. You can get really excited about it until suddenly they ask for you to pay their airfare because they've have some major medical problems," said Spira.
Experts suggest asking lots of questions and even going as far as doing a background check.
Before you meet the person, make sure you pass the cyber dating threshold.
"No matter how trusting the person appears to be online or by phone, you definitely want to spend at minimum two weeks in conversation," said relationship expert Susan Flowers, PhD, relationship expert.
Flowers says 95 percent of her clients have had bad online dating experiences. The most common is getting tricked by pictures, sometimes stock photos.
"Could be a 40 year-old woman posting a picture of herself back in college. It could be a picture of her children. Could be a picture of her relative. That has happened," said Flowers.
Her best advice to beating the scams is if your gut tells you it's not right, run away.
As for Dixon, he's optimistic.
"You have to go through the 90 percent of bad experiences to get to the one good one," said Dixon.