How to Spot a Scammer on Dating Sites

What red flags you should watch out for to avoid getting your heart and bank account broken by a scammer
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Created by Levis

Published on Oct 11, 2022
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Online dating scams are increasing in frequency and cost victims millions of dollars annually. However, fraudsters do more than send phishing emails to steal money from individuals.

You should always keep an eye out for indicators that the person you're communicating with on a dating site is a con artist. Looking out for the following warning signs can help you prevent being scammed on online dating sites.

Profile Warning Signs

There are several red flags to watch out for when reviewing the online dating profile of a potential match. The following characteristics are frequently associated with con artists:

Their profiles lack images, or the images they do have, appear to be stock images of models or celebrities.

Even when have your account setting set up to match you with local people, they actually work or reside in another country. Numerous con artists claim to be serving in a foreign military.

Scammers and bots will have very little information about themselves on dating apps. Their profile often contains one or two photos and is not linked to Instagram or any other site.

Your Match Professes Love Early On

Scammers that engage in online dating move swiftly when claiming an emotional connection. They may express their affection and declare their love for you in a short period.

This is a sort of emotional manipulation known as love bombing. It's also why lonely people are such desirable targets: they desire connection. Even if you haven't met yet, be wary of matches who are over the top and effusive with comments immediately.

They Attempt to Move the Conversation to Another Platform Too Quickly

Online dating fraudsters, particularly those who "catfish" their victims, may immediately request that you move to a communication method other than on the site you met.

Scammers frequently prefer to communicate via messages on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. They could also send you a message via text or a messaging app like WhatsApp. Be cautious if someone you've never met tries to extend the conversation to a different platform, as it might be harder to get help or report the person, if necessary.

They Refuse to Video Chat

Scammers may avoid using voice calls or video chats and insist on sticking to messaging. However, some are able to pull off convincing voice calls because they use a fake voice or make someone else talk on the phone for them. However, ‘catfish’ will not appear in video calls since they use phoney profile images. Be wary if your potential partner refuses to video chat with you or claims their camera is damaged.

Most smartphones now include built-in selfie cameras, making video chatting a breeze. Not everyone who avoids video chatting is a ‘catfish’. Some individuals genuinely may feel shy and nervous about calling on camera. However, it is a red flag if someone claims to love you but refuses to talk to you on video after weeks of messaging.

They Are Always Interested in Meeting You, But Something Always Prevents It

Scammers who use online dating frequently claim they want to meet in person, but something always comes up when the time comes. Since the con artists are not who they claim to be, they refuse to meet in person. Also, they might not even be in the region they claim to be.

When it comes time to meet, they will come up with various, sometimes outlandish, excuses for why they can’t show up. Also, many con artists use images of someone in a military uniform on their profile as “being in the service” provides them with a reason not to meet. 

They Ask You To Send Them Money

It is common for a catfish to ask for money since that is ultimately what most scammers desire. They may fabricate family emergencies, health problems, or travel difficulties.

They may attempt to take advantage of your desire to meet them and ask you for money for their travel expenses, claiming they will not be able to meet you unless you provide the funds. Sometimes, they will claim that the border patrol has them in custody and that they need money to be released. 

Another thing to watch out for is a scammer trying to convince you to send them money by claiming they are delivering you an item subject to customs fees. Someone posing as a third party may phone you or email you documents requesting money, as fraudsters do not usually operate alone. 

Do not send money to anyone who makes these claims! Someone you are dating online shouldn’t be asking you for money.

They Send You a Link to Another Service or Website

Some con artists skip catfishing in favor of more efficient methods of victim exploitation. This is especially true for online dating apps, where bot profiles are prevalent.

If a match offers you a link to an app, game, service, or website they believe you should try, it is likely an attempt to obtain your financial information or trick you into downloading malware. It is essentially the online dating equivalent of phishing, and con artists employ it frequently on Tinder and other dating apps.

They Ask You to Move Money 

One of the more recent internet dating scams does not involve soliciting money from victims but instead transforms them into "money mules." Instead of stealing money from you, these con artists attempt to recruit you as a money launderer.

For instance, the fraudster may pay the victim money, and the victim may subsequently send the fraudster an Amazon or other gift card. Occasionally, they may send you money and require you to deposit it in a separate account.

Scammers may occasionally ask their victims to open a bank account for them. If your online date requests any of these financial transactions or swaps, they are probably attempting to deceive you into engaging in criminal activity.

How to Avoid Romance Con Artists

To avoid online dating scams, check for telltale signs of a potential scammer and take a few additional precautions. Utilize reverse image search (easy and free to do on Google images) to determine a person's online identity. You want to make sure that the same image does not appear in several profiles with different names or on stock image websites.

You should also try to stay up to date with the newest dating scams, especially those associated with the website or app you’re using. Some online dating scams differ from platform to platform, and not all dating scams entail prolonged catfishing.

Additionally, you should never reveal too much about yourself to someone you've never met. A catfish will evaluate your wealth and level of vulnerability to see if you are a viable victim.

Do not reply to overly polite emails or messages via an online dating service. It is possible to match with individuals with suspect profiles on dating apps.

Finally, never email intimate images to someone you met online. Scammers use these photographs to blackmail and extort victims. Lastly, end the connection immediately and consider reporting the profile if warning signs appear and you cannot validate the person's identity. 

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