Federal Government Giving Dating Advice Now (and It Has Been for Years)

January 30, 2013 | Posted by Enrique

Based on the election outcomes of the last decade-plus, it seems clear that U.S. voters are enthusiastically in favor of Big Government. As our elected officials have responded to the wishes of their constituents, the U.S. federal government has grown into a lumbering behemoth that runs trillion dollar annual budget deficits and more debt than can possibly be paid off. Among the consequences is that the federal government now routinely performs (or attempts to perform) functions it has no business doing.

Last week, a story surfaced that reminds us there is no facet of life the federal government isn’t trying to meddle in. Apparently, the U.S. Department of State put out a warning on how to avoid “Internet Dating and Romance Scams.” Surely, we can all agree this is something the federal government should not be involved in (giving dating advice is clearly the role of state and local government).

The story so far…

As anyone who has ever been single knows, the process of dating comes with its share of rewarding experiences – but also a fair amount of disappointment and possibly even deception (I mean, not for me or you, dear reader, but surely we’ve heard stories). It’s a fact of life that courtship rituals are not always satisfying…and whenever some facet of human existence isn’t perfect, you can count on government to try and regulate it.

The State Dept’s dating advice is under the broader category of International Travel Information/International Financial Scams. It shares company with classics like the Grandparent Scam, where the con impersonates someone’s grandchild traveling abroad, and asks for a wire transfer to get out of some ill-defined foreign legal entanglement. So I suppose the idea is that because a dating scam can involve someone claiming to live outside the U.S., that makes it a foreign policy issue and thus under State Dept jurisdiction. Whatever.

The Internet Dating and Romance Scam page is actually very extensive, clocking in at over 3,400 words (assuming Word is accurate) and includes emails and transcripts of actual attempted scams. To be sure, much of the advice isn’t actually bad per se. It’s more or less an overview of the kind of warning signs we would recognize immediately if they happened to someone else, but might not recognize if we were looking forward to a romantic encounter with an exotic foreigner we met online.

Here are some of the key warning signs that you may be the target of a romance scam:

• The scammer asks for money to get out of a bad situation or to provide a service.

• Photographs that the scammer sends of “him/herself” show a very attractive person. The photo appears to have been taken at a professional modeling agency or photographic studio.

• The scammer has incredibly bad luck– often getting into car crashes, arrested, mugged, beaten, or hospitalized — usually all within the course of a couple of months. They often claim that their key family members (parents and siblings) are dead. Sometimes, the scammer claims to have an accompanying child overseas who is very sick or has been in an accident.

• The scammer claims to be a native-born American citizen, but uses poor grammar indicative of a non-native English speaker. Sometimes the scammer will use eloquent romantic language that is plagiarized from the Internet.

In fairness, I’m sure there are plenty of non-scammers who have attractive photos in their online dating profiles (of themselves no less, and recent). But you can see how a too-attractive photo could indicate that something is amiss. Here’s how the State Dept exemplifies photos from the “Gorgeous People in Trouble” genre.

Never trust a blonde woman in a bathrobe

I’m sure there are some folks who are more vulnerable to these types of scams than others. Certainly, if someone is an immigrant or has family that lives overseas, they might be more likely targets. Still, the level of detail seems unnecessary. “Don’t give money to anyone who hasn’t voluntarily touched your privates” would be a good rule of thumb, online or otherwise.

This is all very silly, of course. It also isn’t the first time the federal government has been involved in the dating advice business. The Federal Trade Commission has its own (much more succinct) webpage about Online Dating Scams. It encourages victims to file a complaint with the FTC or report scams to the FBI.

Way back in 2009, the pro-business think tank Tax Foundation called attention to a website funded by a Department of Health and Human Services grant that gives advice on dating and how to improve your marriage. That site is still around, and includes an article on Signs of Manipulative Relationships.

Christ, if you’ve never been manipulated in a relationship, you’ve never been in love.

If you type “dating advice” into Amazon’s search engine, the results are plentiful. If you type “dating scams” into Google, there’s lots of material to keep you busy. The private sector has this subject taken care of. Besides, who the hell looks to the federal government for dating advice?

It’s bizarre how much useless advice the federal government is doling out despite no one asking for it or seeking it out. Here’s a selection:

• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a page devoted to tips for improving your health in less than five minutes. Among its suggestions are washing your hands, testing your smoke alarms, and sending your friends insufferable e-cards reminding them to avoid blood clots while on vacation. “Remember to get up and walk around every 2 to 3 hours to help avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis…Enjoy your trip!”

• The Food and Drug Administration reminds us that “Medication Errors Happen to Pets, Too.” Be sure to ask your veterinarian when to give your pet medication and how much – especially if they’re the kind of vet that hands you a bottle of horsepills with a skull-and-crossbones on it and then walks away without saying a word.

• The Federal Trade Commission has made a short video informing you that even if you make the minimum monthly payments on your credit card, you still have to pay interest. The kind of people who need that advice are presumably the same ones the federal government has tried to save from foreclosure.

• The Federal Emergency Management Agency is featuring this photo to remind you to protect your pet when putting together an emergency supply kit.

It’s easy to look at this stuff and think, what’s the harm? But what’s the good? Anyone who is interested in any of these topics can get information of comparable quality with a Google search. None of this is remotely within the boundaries of legitimate government function.

Even with $16 trillion in debt, there are a lot of folks who would have you believe that federal government spending cuts would be unbearable. On the contrary, when government is big enough to be giving out dating advice, it is clearly in need of more severe cuts than anyone is proposing.


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