Online dating scams have continued to rise in the past several years. With the increased popularity of online dating as an alternative to traditional dating and finding a relationship, scammers are benefiting. Victims have lost millions of dollars, not to mention broken hearts. Nowadays, cybercriminals are playing a long game to extract money from their victims.
If you haven’t seen the 2022 documentary on the streaming platform Netflix, called The Tinder Swindler, we suggest you watch it. This documentary highlighted the tactics of scammers using Tinder to lure victims.
And with the increasing popularity of dating apps, there has been a rise in online dating scams, and scammers can cast an even wider net for potential targets. In fact, statistics show that 547 million USD was lost to dating fraudsters in 2021 alone.
How do Online Romance Scams Work?
According to statistics by Pew Research Service, about 30% of Americans have tried an online dating service. That is almost one-third of Americans. People have given away hundreds or thousands of dollars to someone they met online.
Usually, the scammer starts his/her search on one of the many dating platforms. They usually target older, poorer, and less educated people. Single people are the biggest target, of course. Scammers can use dating and social media profiles and try to find people who idealize romantic partners.
Then, the scammer opens up a profile with a picture of an attractive man or attractive woman. The goal is to emphasize social attractiveness.
And, of course, next is a false identity. That expands to more than social media. Sometimes, they even acquire a false identity document.
Scammers can also use pictures with famous personalities. Of course, these are doctored pictures or photoshopped pictures. Deep fake software allows a person to swap his or her face for someone else.
The next step is to establish trust. It is all part of an elaborate scheme. Scammers reach out on social media, collect publicly available information, and use them to establish a connection with the victim.
Red Flags to Watch Out For
There are two types of red flags you should watch out for if you practice online dating. The first group is the profile picture. If that has managed to fool you, pay attention to red flags during your chat session. Let’s explain it.
Red Flags about the Profile
Too good to be true
This is one of the easiest ways to spot a scammer. But that is often true for beginner scammers. Professional ones do not use photos that look too good to be true. If you see a picture that is perfect, stay away.
Nobody with a perfect life, great job, and amazing photo like that is a reality and chats on online dating sites. Take a closer look to see if everything seems real. For example, you can download the image and do a reverse image search. This will reduce the chances of being catfished.
You can also use Google’s search-by-image feature. If the same image appears under different names, that is your red flag right there.
Spelling mistakes or grammar mistakes
One of the big signs of a fake online dating profile is poor spelling and grammar. That means the person is lazy, uneducated, or simply doesn’t care. We all make mistakes. That much is true. But bad English can sometimes be a sign of a fake profile.
If you are serious about online dating, wouldn’t you proofread at least your bio?
Empty social networks
If the person you get hooked on has empty social media accounts, that means they either do not link to them or they are limited. In either case, it is a sign of a shady profile.
Now, nobody wants to overwhelm its profile with thousands of photos. Or hundreds. But more than one or two, for sure. If the profile has very few photos, that is because they are scamming you and couldn’t find 10 photos of the same attractive person to use as a profile picture.
You can even ask for photos of the person. And if that person refuses to send you pictures, move on.
Red flags during chatting
We have to note that professional scammers have mastered the game. And they have managed to use just the right profile picture to lure you into chatting. But even if you get there, you can still see some red flags that suggest a scam and not a real romantic relationship.
If the person wants to leave the dating website quickly, and switch communication through email or instant messaging, stay away from it.
Too much attention
Nobody lavishes someone with the attention that much before meeting him/her online. Too much attention on a dating website should put things in perspective. Scammers often send emails, texts, and romantic pictures to draw victims in.
Always canceling the date
The good news is that no matter how deep you fall into the scammer’s net, you can always get out. Even if you have gone for a while, and you chat constantly, some signs should help you get out of there. A known red flag is when the said person refuses to come to a date.
Yes, you arrange a date, but the person constantly comes up with an excuse to cancel.
Avoid video chat
There is simple logic when someone refuses video chat. It means the picture on the profile and the person on the video chat is not the same one, right? That much is obvious.
Scammers always avoid video chats and sometimes even phone calls. Yes, they can fake their accent and put on a specific voice. But a catfish will not appear in a video chat because of using fake images.
We will talk about the ways you can protect yourself from scammers, but one of them is asking a lot of questions. Pay attention to inconsistencies that reveal a swindler. You can notify the dating app service if you meet a scammer.
They request money from you
The most obvious sign you are dealing with a scammer and swindler instead of a romantic partner. Nobody on dating apps requires money for no reason. Why should you send money to someone you haven’t even met in real life?
How to protect yourself from online scams
We are sure you can already guess the ways you can protect yourself. Basically, pay attention to the red flags and run away if you see them. But here are some more tips for online protection and security.
Do not give money to people you do not know
We touched on this one before. When you are dating someone online, do not give them money. At least not until you meet them in real life and you are certain it might turn out to be something real.
Do not move too fast
Dating scammers love lonely people. They take advantage of loners and vulnerable people. They try to act quickly and finish off with you. But do not move quickly with someone you’ve met on a dating site. No matter how much you clicked during the initial conversation, there is time for everything.
Do not share personal details
Yes, you are trying to get to know someone. But do not overshare personal details. The person you are chatting to doesn’t have to know the industry you work in. Or where you live. Or the names of your friends and family members.
Do not say you are serious
Saying you are serious or looking for a serious relationship is a welcome sign for scammers. It often says you are desperate or might come as vulnerable to scam artists. They will target you.
What to do if you suspect you are a target?
You can always take things to the authorities. If you suspect you are a target or victim of cybercrime, you should alert the dating website and report a scam to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Or, you can use the FBI’s online tips form.
Should you avoid online dating?
Let’s be clear, not everyone who uses dating websites is a scam artist. You should not completely avoid using dating platforms. After all, lots of people find love online. The goal is to be careful about who you start a conversation with.
The most important thing is to be mindful of your privacy and safety. That is the first rule of online dating that will protect you from creeps and cyber criminals.