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Lying online isn't loved

Looking for love on Valentine's Day? You are not alone.

Websites like Plenty of Fish, eHarmony, and Tinder usually see a spike in the number of users February 14. 

There are more than 100 million users worldwide on one site, according to one dating site

That is a big pool of fish to choose from, but how do you know who or what you are choosing?

In the online dating world, the degrees in which people misrepresent themselves can vary. 

That misrepresentation may be a simple 'white lie' about height or weight or it can be more devious, like lying about being married or even who they are.

A survey of users on a dating site found roughly 53 per cent of people lied on their online dating profile. 

20 per cent of women admitted to using an older photo from when they were younger and thinner. 

More than 40 per cent of men said they lied about their jobs in an effort to sound more successful.

In the past RCMP have warned would-be love-seekers to be vigilant while looking for love online.

Online romance scams typically happen when somebody uses photos to create a fake online profile with the aim of luring potential victims into relationships. Another term that has been gaining in popularity is 'catfishing.'  

Some of these fake relationships can last years, costing victims more than money — often times their dignity and self-confidence. 

In 2016, victims of romance scams in Canada lost more than $18 million — that works out to about $23,000 lost per victim, according to the RCMP.

"This idea of misrepresenting online is not that unique, it is quite common or prevalent," explains Dr. Joti Samra.

Dr. Samra is a registered psychologist with a clinical practice in Vancouver. 

"I think most people want to believe that people are good, and we can trust people, and we can trust our own judgements ... so when that is thrown upside down it calls into question a lot of things."

Dr. Samra says that that can often lead to real damage in victims.  

"There is often a lot of shame and embarrassment," especially with women explains Dr. Samra. 

Many victims never report the crime or tell their loved ones due to shame, fear of ridicule and denial. 

Perpetrators of online scams are lured by the cloak of anonymity; the perception that 'no one will know who I am' and 'no one will find out what I am doing.' 

Dr. Samra says for some people who fabricate online profiles, it might be out of boredom, or it could be somebody who is introverted; in this virtual world is it very easy to create an identity that is whatever you want it to be.

"It is easy. It is a photo and words." 

"It might not have mal intent to it," says Dr. Samra. "But when we look at people who are communicating very blatant, blunt lies, where there is no ambiguity, where it is very clear there is an absolute misrepresentation, often there is a personality disorder component, like narcissism in particular." 

At the heart of narcissism is a grandiose sense of self and a real inability to have empathy or conscious of behaviour, explained Dr. Samra.

"Empathy is truly being able to understand the impact your behaviours have on other people."

At the end of the day, it is fraudulent and can be considered criminal behaviour.  

Online dating is the way of the future, but you want to quickly get to a point of meeting in person.

Dr. Samra suggests some rules to follow. 

"Don't get caught up in texting and sending pictures. If you haven't met person to person, you don't know who the person is. If they don't want to meet in a safe and public space you probably need to abort that communication."  

She added, "trust your intuition. Often we'll look back and say 'something wasn't right' or 'I didn't feel comfortable.' As soon as something twigs something trust it, and tell yourself 'think I need to check this out properly.'



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