Online dating scams continue to rise, costing unsuspecting victims millions of dollars each year. Rather than simply sending phishing emails, cybercriminals are playing the long game to cheat people out of their money.
If you are using an online dating platform, make sure to look out for these signs that the person you’re talking to is actually a scammer—and how to avoid online dating scams in general.
Who Do Dating Site Scams Target?
Scammers target people across different demographics on every dating platform possible. This means that regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, or preferred platform; no one is off-bounds to a scammer.
However, they tend to target older people more often. Meanwhile, the biggest targets for long-term catfishing scams are people who are vulnerable or isolated.
Plenty of Fish (POF) scams are particularly prevalent due to the large nature of the network. However, scams exist on sites like Ashley Madison, Match.com, and the majority of other dating sites.
With the rise of dating apps, scammers cast an even wider net for potential targets and automate much of the process—using bots to lure victims into scams.
Ways to Spot an Online Dating Scammer
1. Profile Warning Signs
There are a few signs you should look out for when looking at a potential match’s online dating profile.
A few typical traits of a scammer’s profile include:
- Profiles have very few images or images that seem to be model or glamour stock photos
- Despite looking for singles in your area, they work or live in another country
- Many scammers claim to be on military deployment in another country
On dating apps, scammers and bots will have very limited profile information. They also tend to only have one or two photos and do not link their profile to their Instagram or other accounts.
2. They Try to Take the Conversation Elsewhere
Online dating scammers, especially those catfishing victims, will quickly ask you to move to another form of messaging outside the platform where you met.
Often, scammers will want to communicate via written messages on Skype or Facebook. However, they may also choose to message you over SMS or an app like Whatsapp.
Be wary of anyone you haven’t met that wants to move the conversation to another platform.
3. Your Match Professes Love Early On
Online dating scammers tend to move very quickly in terms of professing an emotional connection. Within a short period, they may say they love you and that they feel a very deep connection to you.
This is all part of the emotional manipulation involved in catfishing while using online dating. It’s also why people who are vulnerable and isolated are such desirable targets—since they’re yearning for a connection.
You should look out for any matches that are overly flattering and overly devoted early on in your communication when you haven’t even met.
4. They Want To Meet You, But Something Always Comes Up
A common line among online dating scammers is that they want to meet you, but when the time comes, there is always some unexpected issue.
Since the scammer is not the person they claim to be, they don’t want to meet in person. This is also the reason why so many scammers claim to work in another country or be on military deployment since it provides them with an excuse for not being able to meet up. In fact, many scammers use photos of military personnel and soldiers on their profiles.
The inability to meet you may even be the supposed reason they first try to solicit money from a victim. They may claim to need money to buy a ticket to travel to meet you. Sometimes, they’ll say that border officials detained them and that they need money for their release.
5. They Avoid Video Chat Completely
According to the Better Business Bureau, the majority of romance scams trace back to people living in Nigeria. So, if a scammer is a foreigner from a country like Nigeria, Ghana, or Malaysia, they may avoid phonecalls or voice chat on programs like Skype, since their accent may give them away.
However, scammers are able to fake accents for victims that back up their claimed country of origin.
No matter what, a catfish will not appear in video chat since they use fake profile images. Be wary if your match is never willing to appear in video chat or always makes excuses about their camera being broken.
Most smartphones now have built-in selfie cameras, which makes video chatting relatively easy. Some people may initially hesitate to appear on video chat out of shyness. But it’s a red flag if someone professes love, yet won’t let you talk to them over video after weeks of communication.
6. They Request Money From You
Inevitably, a catfish will request money from you, as this is the ultimate goal of most scammers. There are a variety of scenarios that they may invent—from family emergencies, health issues, or travel problems.
Particularly inventive scammers may even trick you into sending them money by purportedly sending you a package that requires customs fees. Scammers don’t necessarily work alone, so you may receive a phone call or documents from someone posing as third-party to request fees.
Some scammers even request financial help or financial investment related to their fictional business.
If any kind of financial request comes from your suitor, or from something related to them (such as a package or business), this is the biggest sign that you are the target of a scam.
7. They Ask for Your Help With Financial Transactions
One of the newer online dating scams doesn’t request money from victims, but turns them into “money mules”. Rather than trying to get money from the victim, these scammers make you an accomplice in money laundering.
One example includes the scammer sending money to the victim, who then sends them an Amazon card or another kind of gift card. Other times they might send you money and ask you to send it to another account for them.
Sometimes, scammers may ask a victim to open a bank account for them.
If your online suitor asks you to get involved in these types of financial transactions and exchanges, it’s likely that they’re a scammer trying to lure you into illegal activities.
8. They Send You a Link to Another Service or Website
Some scammers don’t bother with catfishing, rather using more efficient ways to exploit victims. This is especially true on online dating apps, where bot profiles are prevalent.
If a match sends you a link to an app, game, service, or website they say they want you to try out; this is often a ploy to get you to supply financial information or download malware.
It is essentially the online dating version of phishing and is a very popular tactic for scammers on dating apps like Tinder.
How to Avoid Online Dating Scams
Besides spotting a potential scammer, there are a few precautions you can take to avoid online dating scams.
Firstly, use reverse image searches and tools like socialcatfish.com to verify a person’s online identity. You should check that the same image isn’t appearing across a variety of profiles under different names.
You should also keep up-to-date on the different types of dating scams emerging, especially those related to the platform you’re using. Not all dating scams involve prolonged catfishing, and certain mobile dating app scams differ from dating website scams.
Finally, never reveal too much information about yourself to someone you’ve never met. A catfish will use your financial situation and whether you’re vulnerable to determine whether you’re an ideal target.
If you receive overly flattering introduction emails or messages on an online dating site, simply don’t respond. On mobile dating apps, don’t match with profiles that seem suspicious.
Furthermore, never send intimate images of yourself to an online acquaintance—scammers are now using these types of pictures for blackmail and extortion schemes.
Finally, if warning signs pop up and you are unable to verify the person’s identity, cut off communication immediately.
Protect Yourself While Dating Online
One of the most important measures to date when dating online is to protect your privacy. This not only helps you avoid scams, but can also protect you from creeps and cyberstalkers.
From making sure you don’t share too much, to blocking linking between social media apps, check out our guide on protecting your privacy while using online dating.