Studies show that as many as 15% of all American adults currently use online dating sites or mobile apps or social media to meet people. That means that 15% of all American adults can be easily targeted by dating scam artists if they don’t use a modicum of caution and forearm themselves with the following tips and tricks for spotting fake profiles and avoiding online dating scams.
The FTC reported that in 2018, romance scams garnered more than $143 million dollars! Are you a member of an online dating service? Knowledge is power! Read on to find out how to spot a fake profile, what scamming techniques to watch out for, what to do when you suspect a profile is fake, the most common online dating scams.
If you have already been scammed through someone on an online dating service or social media, we layout exactly what steps to take to protect yourself and minimize your losses.
Table of Contents
- How to Spot Fake Profiles
- Scamming Techniques to Watch Out For
- What to Do When You Think a Profile is Phony
- How to Prevent Your Profile from Looking like a Phony Profile
- Avoid on Online Dating Scams
- 12 Things to Do if You Have Been Scammed Online
It All Begins with a Phony Profile
Scam artists are getting very good at creating appealing fake online dating profiles and then stringing along would-be suitors, gaining their trust, and ultimately exploiting that trust to con them out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Here’s how to avoid this happening to you.
1. Here’s How to Spot a Fake Profile
Of course, a bogus online dating profile will show someone attractive and successful ( sometimes they will claim to be a celebrity or even royalty) – that’s the whole point, to capture your interest initially, then gain your trust and reel you in. But be realistic – is the person really “out of your league?” You know what that means. If you’re not sure then take advantage of profile photo analysis tool for an unbiased assessment of your photo. Most of us are average-looking people who will attract other average-looking people. Be wary if someone way hotter than you seems to be interested in you.
Also, watch out for inconsistencies in the information provided on the profile – such as a birth date that does not correspond to the apparent age of the person in the photo provided or if they forget previous conversations you’ve had. Maybe they get some material facts from their profile wrong. All of this would indicate that teh person is a dating scammer.
Be suspicious of profiles that give very little in the way of detail, and that only have one picture. Scammers are creating fake profiles with computer-generated avatars or photos from magazines, and so only have that one image of that person. Along the same lines, be realistic about the person reaching out to contact you. For instance if they are ” way out of your league” then you know its too good to be true. You have to ask yourself, if you were out with your friends at a local bar, or the ball game, church, the library any place where people congregate, would you be comfortable approaching and talking to the person who’s photo shows up in that online dating profile?
If the answer is ” No” then you have your answer. Frequently scammers trap unsuspecting individuals by posing as someone “too good to be true” or a “real super model” so they think that they have really lucked out. There is an interesting article about this titled “Does Online Dating Work?” by grant Langston the former CEO of eHarmony that explains this.
Be suspicious also of someone to purports to be traveling abroad for work and thus unable to meet in person. This is all too common among scammers. They may say they are in the military or Doctors without Borders. They always have a reason why they can not meet in person, yet they are so happy to hear from you and try to develop a ” virtual” romance in order to trick you.
If you ask to meet with someone 3 times and they always have an excuse its time to move on. Our suggestion is always the “3-2-1 Rule” where you have 3 online conversations with someone who interests you, then ask for their number and have 2 phone conversations with them and finally ( if things go well) ask to meet for coffee for a short 30 minutes to see if there is any chemistry. If during this process the person doesn’t want to talk on teh phone or certainly meet then it’s time to move on and find someone else.
Not everyone that tries and scam you is interested in money. Sometimes people try and scam you to get you to date them even though they know they are not in your “league” or not the type of person you’ve indicated you’re interested in. Another benefit of this “3-2-1 rule” is that it can quickly weed out the people that are trying to convince you to date them even thought they are the wrong person.
There are examples of people using other peoples photos, like their roommate or someone they found online. There are even Artificial Intelligence based sites continuously creating fake portraits of non-existent humans for use in advertising. While the use of avatars in advertising is fine and legal …and avoids the cost of hiring models and a photographer, using these images on an online dating site to commit a dating scam is wrong. While these people are wrong to do this and waste your time, maybe be flattered that someone went to all that trouble to want to meet you. Ultimately , you will need to move on.
Here are some additional tips on spotting fake online profiles.
2. Here are the Scamming Techniques to Watch Out For
A scammer will want to take the discussion off the dating site and correspond via private email, texting, or instant messaging in order to keep your correspondence private and under the radar of the dating site or law enforcement.
A scammer will usually start corresponding with you as a real possible date would, by exchanging basic information like line of work, hobbies, where they grew up and live now, and the like. However, things will escalate unusually quickly – the scammer will quickly fall “in love” with you and may even state that your meeting was fated to be.
A scammer will request your full name, address, or banking information way too soon in your relationship. Be cautious. Refrain from sharing sensitive personal or financial information too soon.
To spring the trap, a scammer will ask you to send or wire money to him or her, or to deposit a check then send a portion back as these are often bad checks that bounce, leaving you having to repay the amount deposited to the bank. Be wary of any mention of money inthe first weeks or months of your correspondence online.
3. Here’s What to Do When You Think a Profile is Phony
There are a multitude of ways to check up on someone’s online profile and confirm that he or she is in fact a real person looking for a date.
- Perform an image-search of the profile pic to see if used elsewhere online (Google or TinEye)
- Google the profile name to see if there are other profiles using that name, or if anyone has reported a scam using that name
- Either cease communication OR be very, very cautious. Do not give out personal or financial details, send money, or send any incriminating photos or videos of yourself as scammers are known to blackmail people who do this.
How to Prevent Your Profile from Looking like a Phony Profile
You are paying for a membership on that online dating site for a reason, right? Potential matches have the same concerns you do and want to avoid being scammed. Here are three tips on how to create your profile so that you prevent the site as well as potential matches from suspecting that your profile is fake:
- Fill out your profile completely, but at the same time preserve your privacy as much as possible. How? Create a user name or a nickname perhaps, and disclose that you live in a certain state or county or metropolitan region rather than your exact town.
- Create a separate email address just for your online dating profile.
- Make sure to disclose whatever is most unusual or interesting about yourself, and be prepared to back it up with more specifics should someone contact you. For example, post a picture of you scuba diving and be prepared to talk about where you’ve traveled to dive.
- Change your primary profile picture every week. This shows the site you are an active member
- Complete your profile by adding additional pictures of you doing things you love in your portfolio. Dating profiles with only one photo are routinely flagged as spam or scam.
- Be active at least a few times a week. An inactive profile tends to get the attention of the online dating site and might result in your profile not being displayed often.
Common Scams to Avoid on Online Dating Sites and Social Media
- Money request (“I was in a car accident and need surgery but have no money…”)
- Money laundering (“I’m sending you some money, could you deposit it and send a postal money order to…”)
- Cash back from a deposited check (“I’m sending you $3,000 for my half of the cruise…” then a day or two later “I need $1,000 back temporarily for an emergency car repair, can you wire that to me please?” $3,000 check then bounces)
- Blackmailing someone with incriminating photos or videos
- Identity theft and fraudulent credit accounts and purchases
12 Things to Do if You Have Been Scammed Online
- Cease all contact with the scammer
- Keep a record and copies of all communications
- Change all of your online passwords
- Check your credit report for fraud
- If your privacy was compromised and your identity was stolen, put a fraud alert on your credit report.
- Freeze your credit
- Report the scammer’s fake profile to the online dating site
- Contact your financial institution(s)
- File a local police report
- Contact your state’s consumer protection agency
- Contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov
- Report the scam to the FTC at the following address:
Federal Trade Commission
Bureau of Consumer Protection
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington D.C. 20580
TTY: (866) 653-4261
Hopefully you’ve done your research and found this article and have been able to avoid being scammed by online dating scammers. But if you have been scammed through online dating or social media take the 12 steps outlined in the article for your own protection and employ the techniques above to avoid being scammed ever again. Online dating can be fun and exciting. You just need to follow some basic protection and common sense to avoid a romance scam.
About the Author
Veronica Baxter is a legal assistant and blogger living and working in the great city of Philadelphia. She works frequently for Todd Mosser, Esq., who owns a firm of busy PCRA lawyers in Philadelphia.
The daughter of military parents, Veronica lived all over the world as a child growing up and collected experiences and friends throughout her travels. Having developed a taste for international cuisine, she is growing into an accomplished amateur chef – just about every weekend you can find her in her kitchen creating ethnic and seasonal farm-to-table meals for her family and friends.
Veronica plays soccer in a recreational league and is a rabid Philadelphia Union and Sky Blue fan. She is committed to social justice and volunteers at a local soup kitchen and as a roofer and framer with Habitat for Humanity. She lives in a renovated south Philly row home with her husband John, their two rescue poodles, Connor and Camelot, a full aquarium of African Cichlids, and several rescue cats (the number changes almost daily!).