If you’re not sure how to spot fake online profiles from real ones, then welcome to the club! It is becoming more and more common and more and more difficult to spot fake profiles as they are becoming more and more carefully crafted to deceive those who are targeted.
In fact, around 1 in 10 online dating profiles are fake, with “romance scams” garnering nearly 50 million dollars per year in total. This isn’t only a problem with online dating profiles. All told, 60% of all online profiles are either inactive or faked. Scammers will use any tool that they have available to trick you into sharing sensitive information or giving them money.
If you’ve signed up for an online dating service, it’s likely that you’ve been messaged by some fake online profiles. They’ll tell you everything you want to hear, but it’s always at a price.
Whether it’s subscribing to their band’s fan page or wiring money to that Nigerian prince, it’s important to know how to protect yourself from fake online profiles.
Making sense of fake online profiles
It’s the stuff of nightmares, fake profiles scams are the far opposite of what you see on the commercials (Happy couples dancing to the Match.com jingle).
Fake online profiles are much more common on free online dating sites.
Not only in terms of scams and cons but real individuals, a whopping 80% of online daters admit that they lie about one or more things in their online profiles. This could be their age, their career, their gender, even their relationship status! It’s too easy to lie on dating profiles, so it’s important that you always have a healthy amount of suspicion.
Another study has shown an even more shocking number, stating that 90% of users fiddle with their facts on their online profiles. “Fiddling” with the facts could include slightly changing the title of their position at work to sound more impressive. These lies are typically harmless. These people are just trying to make themselves sound slightly more attractive.
While these lies are not much of a threat, there are people who create profiles that are 100% made up. They use fake information and fake pictures. These are the people that you really need to watch out for. They are on the hunt for your information, for your money, or for your identity. You need to be able to spot these profiles before they get any information from you.
From white lies to identity theft, fake online profiles have become an epidemic in the world of online dating.
To escape the bad and find the good profiles, start by perfecting your own online profile, learn to spot the bad ones, and don’t forget to always be cautious when it comes to online dating.
How to spot fake online profiles
There are a lot of “red flags” that can indicate a fake profile and that someone is a scammer rather than a potential romantic partner. Some are very obvious, and some are more subtle.
If the profile or the person behind it is guilty of any of the following, it may be a fake profile and part of an online dating scam:
1. Fake online profile power words
These keywords found in the majority of fake online profiles include the words Catholic, widowed, female, Ph.D., Nigeria, engineer, self-employed, and Royalty.
You might be thinking “Why is female on this list? Surely, there are some real females on these dating sites!” That’s true. But, you should know that 24% of catfishers pretend to be the opposite gender. It all depends on who they are trying to target.
People who create fake profiles want to catch your eye. They use words or pictures that they think will spark your interest. They create profiles with specific people in mind and they are targeting their profiles to a specific audience to try and get the best results.
If you see any of the above words heavily emphasized on a profile, there is a chance that it belongs to a scammer and is fake.
While there are certainly authentic profiles that will have these keywords, consider it a red flag. Instead of totally disregarding the profile immediately, do some digging and see if there are any other classic signs of a fake profile.
2. Nonsensical messages
Drunk messages are one thing, but fake online profiles run through robotic messaging systems tend to make little to no sense. Sometimes it will be strangely worded sentences, or maybe an odd usage of emojis or phrases.
This is because most of the fake profiles belong to either robots or non-English speakers.
According to a study, many romance scammers originate in Western Africa in countries like Nigeria or Ghana.
This point also applies to their profile. Is there a bunch of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes in their information? Are they posting irrelevant information into random sections of their page? There’s a good chance that it’s all copied and pasted from somewhere else because they were in a hurry to set up a fake profile.
If you can’t carry on a conversation with an online dating site user, that should be a red flag, even if their profile is real! Trust your gut. If the conversation seems weird, do some research before you continue talking to this person.
3. They only have one photo
Photos are one of the most important aspects of your online profile. They create a first impression. They give the viewer information about who you are and what you’re like. Having only one photo can be a major red flag, especially if the person is extremely attractive in that one photo.
Fake online profiles are usually designed to be appealing so that people are much more likely to engage with them. Be wary of that guy you swear you saw in a Calvin Klein campaign or that woman who should be a Victoria’s Secret model. 73% of catfishers use a picture of someone else. If they seem obnoxiously attractive, they’re probably just trying to bait you.
If you’re really unsure if it’s fake or not, save the image to your computer and do a reverse image search on Google. If you can find the image in a Google search, there’s a good chance that it’s a fake profile. That person probably found that picture on Google too and is using it to attract someone to scam.
4. They have empty profiles
It’s important to read through profiles carefully.
Not only will you spot red flags in real profiles, but empty profiles or profiles that might as well be empty often belong to a fake online profile. If there are large sections that are left empty or filled with the same information over and over, it’s probably fake.
If it were a real profile, the person behind it would want to use every opportunity to talk about who they are and what they are interested in. Large blank spaces mean that the person who created the profile probably doesn’t actually care about whatever it is that the profile is supposed to achieve (attracting a romantic partner, making career connections, etc.).
Empty profiles show that the person behind them is just looking for an “in” so that they can manipulate you into giving them information or money.
This is also why it’s important to keep your own profile in tip-top shape. High-quality profiles are appealing to real people. If you didn’t put any time into your profile, you probably won’t get many responses because people won’t believe that you’re really interested.
5. Empty social networks
If you genuinely want to keep only close friends in your social profiles, then there’s no judgment here. But, that bikini-clad model with, you guessed it, only one photo and 60 friends on Facebook is probably fake. This is fairly common. In fact, it is assumed that about 83 million Facebook profiles are fake.
A real profile will have a history of posts, photos, or other signs of engagement that will tell you about that person. If the profile has little to no activity, it was probably set up quickly to try and trick someone who isn’t being careful.
The reason that this profile only has a few friends is that those are the only people who fell for it. They probably sent friend requests to thousands of people in the hopes of making their social media profile look authentic, but only a few people fell for it.
6. They’re famous or royal
Celebrities, princes, and archdukes can all be found through online dating sites. Unfortunately, they are not generally real celebrities, princes, or archdukes. Most commonly found are fake online profiles claiming to be African princes.
If this person sounds too good to be true… they probably are. A quick google search will tell you if there is even a prince or celebrity with the name on your profile. If that person does exist, look through the image results. Chances are, you’ll probably find the image that the person used for their fake profile.
If the person is really insistent or you’re not sure, ask them to video chat with you or to send a picture. Tell them to write a specific word on a piece of paper and hold it up in the picture so that you know it’s not just another picture that they found online.
They’ll probably leave you alone entirely if you can show that you’re not going to fall for any old trick.
On a much smaller level, 40% of men on dating sites lie about their position and salary. If he says he’s a CEO of a well-known company, do some fact checking of your own. Go to that company’s website and find out the actual CEO’s name. (If the man’s profile picture matches the CEO’s picture on the website, that’s probably where they got the picture for their fake profile.)
Definitely do not believe everything that you hear.
7. They’re way too forward or flirty
Many online dating scams come in the form of porn and prostitution. If you’re receiving steamy messages from someone you’ve never met or spoken to, don’t be surprised if they ask you to pay for their photos or to enter their website soon thereafter.
Some people are very forward and that’s just their style. Maybe it’s your style too, and that’s alright. But, give it time and make sure that this person is actually interested in you and not just your wallet.
8. They request your personal information
Whether they’re trying to steal your credit card number or your identity, an online dating profile requesting your full name, address, phone number, or social security number is not someone you want to continue talking to.
Don’t be afraid to be stern with people asking these questions. After all, they probably have malicious intentions. If they ask for your info, tell them that you aren’t comfortable with that. Ask them why they need it. Be suspicious.
If it was a miscommunication and the person is actually interested in you or actually cares about you, they will probably back off and apologize for making you uncomfortable. However, if they’re being pushy, aggressive, or trying to rush you by saying there’s some sort of emergency, don’t fall for it.
Protecting yourself from fake profiles and scams
There are a million things that fake online profiles might be after. Some of them are far worse than others. Fake profiles may be created just to prank people or play with their emotions, but they could also be created to trick you into sharing sensitive information or handing over large amounts of cash.
So, what steps can you take towards protecting yourself from attracting attention from the fakes and from falling for them?
First and foremost, start by improving your own profile. A high-quality profile with some high-quality photos will attract a higher percentage of quality messages. If your profile is weak, you will mostly get messages from fake profiles. The more real interactions you have, the better you will be able to recognize when something is off.
To protect yourself from harm when meeting someone new, you can run your own background checks on potential dates or on profiles you suspect to be fake using third-party services you trust.
Also, make sure to talk to your friends and people close to you about the person that you are talking to, especially if you meet in-person. This will not only protect you in potentially dangerous situations, but people outside of the relationship may be able to spot red flags more easily because they are not emotionally involved.
Finally, and most importantly, never share your personal information with anyone online. If the person wants to meet, meet them in a public place first. Make sure that they are a legitimate, honest person before ever giving them information. A stranger online should never ask you for bank account information, social security number, credit card information, your specific address, or any other sensitive information.
Even if you are feeling pretty confident that the person is real, it never hurts to be cautious. If it’s a real person who is legitimately interested in you, they will understand your caution and be willing to work with you to make you comfortable.
The anonymous nature of online dating websites has opened up a whole world for cheats, liars, thieves, scammers, and con men and women. So much so, that they now belong to the umbrella term of “catfish.”
There’s no surefire way to get fakes to stop contacting you, but if you learn to spot them you lose the risk of contacting one first and you’re able to remove the threat at first contact. You will still get fakes contacting you, but you will be better able to recognize them and end the conversation quickly or not engage in a conversation at all.
If you have been in contact with them and you only realize afterward that they seem phony, don’t be afraid to block them or report them to the platform that you’re communicating on. They are trying to trick you and they have bad intentions. Blocking and reporting them will not only protect you, but it may prevent them from being able to trick anyone else too.
Lastly, never underestimate the power of a good first impression for yourself and the profiles you browse through. Trust your gut instinct. If you’re not sure whether a profile seems legit, play it safe. Look for the profiles that have completed information and a lot of pictures.