More than ever, dating apps are the go-to way for single people to find friends, hook-ups, or even long-term partners. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it was found that in 2019, nearly 65 percent of same-sex couples and about 40 percent of new straight couples met through dating apps. In a 2019 survey of over 4,000 Amercians, users described their overall experiences on these platforms as positive. But while using dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, Feeld, or something else, are usually safe and fun, there are some downsides. One of the biggest risks is coming across Internet dating scammers.
Scammers can be experts at luring people in by making them feel special and loved, and then convincing their victims to send money. They often target more vulnerable populations, such as elderly people who may not be as tech savvy. While scammers may be lurking on dating platforms, you have to fall victim. You just have to know what to look out for and how to avoid them.
Here are four tips on how to avoid scammers on dating apps:
1. Be wary of someone asking to move the conversation to text, email, or phone calls too quickly.
While it’s pretty common to match with someone on an app, chat for a bit, then move the conversation off the platform, not every match is well-intentioned. If you’re feeling at all suspicious, or your match asks for your number too quickly, be wary. Consider showing the conversation to a trusted family member or friend who may have good “scammer radar.” They may be able to provide a valuable second opinion on whether it’s safe to move the conversation elsewhere.
According to researchers, scammers will want to move the conversation off of the dating platform and to text, email, or phone calls. While it can be much more convenient to text or email with your matches, specialists from the Federal Trade Commission say don’t do it. Stay on the dating platform to continue the conversation.
If someone asks you to move the conversation off the app, you can say something like, “I’d prefer to keep talking on (insert name of dating platform).” While it may be tempting to switch to a different platform if they persist — especially if they are showering you with compliments, as many scammers often do — to avoid scams, it’s best to keep your conversations on the dating platform.
2. Do a reverse Google image search.
If you think you might be talking to a scammer, do a reverse image search of their photo. This will show you other places their images appear and will give you more information on whether or not they are using a real or fake photo. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) encourages people to see if the image appears with several different names. If it does, you’ve probably got a scammer on your hands.
Be aware that scammers also may use celebrity photos.This is so common, in fact, that researchers have been developing a tool to prevent dating app scams. The tool “recognizes celebrity photos in online dating profiles and identifies the associated profiles as possible fakes, thereby equipping online dating site users with a method to discover scammers.”
If you do an image search of your match’s photo and it turns out it's a photo of a celebrity, it's a red flag that this person probably is not who they say they are.
3. Be your own internet investigator.
Ask for your match’s last name and social media accounts and do a little digging online. Look at their LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or anything else you can find. Their Web presence might give you some indication of whether they are a verifiable, trustworthy person, or if they are a person with mal-intent.
While it’s perfectly okay for a person to opt out of social media, if someone has no Internet presence at all and is putting out questionable vibes — their grammar and spelling is off, they are showering you with too many compliments and gifts, they are feeding you a sob story about how they need money — it’s another red flag. When meeting people off the Internet, you want to be equipped with as much information as you can be.
4. Be wary if they make an excuse every time you plan to meet up.
Even if you’ve been talking with your match on the phone for months and you’ve received gifts and letters, be wary if they have an extravagant and elaborate excuse every time you plan to meet up — especially if the excuse involves sending them money. FBI Supervisory Special Agent David Farquhar was quoted in Consumer Reports saying “the scammer builds trust by writing long letters over weeks or months and crafting a whole persona for their victims...That big investment gives victims a false sense that the relationship must be real.”
Researchers say that cancelling plans to meet up is a warning sign that you are talking to a scammer. So even if you have built a relationship with your match, their shocking story about why they couldn’t meet up, might be a sign that they are scamming you.
5. When they ask for money, don’t send it
Dating app scammers are looking for money, so at some point, they are going to ask you for it. Do not send the money.
A study done by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says that scammers usually will ask for money for “a medical emergency, a business problem, or to pay for a plane ticket to fly and meet in person.” Both the FTC and the BBB warn that scammers may ask you to wire money using Western Union or MoneyGram or ask you to set up a new bank account. If the scammer asks you for money, cease contact with them and report them to the dating app platform you are using. If you have already sent the money, and later suspect them to be a scammer, report the transaction to your financial institution immediately.
The bottom line
Online dating is a popular way for lots of people to find hook-ups and love, but if you’re questioning if your online romance is a scammer, or if you’re just trying to figure out how to safely date online, ask yourself: Has your match asked to take the conversation off of the dating platform? Have they lavished you with compliments and attention? Does their photo come up with multiple names or as a celebrity in a google image search? Have they cancelled plans to meet up? And maybe most importantly, have they asked you for money? If the answer is yes to any or all of these questions, you might have a scammer on your hands. Just knowing what to look out for, though, is the first step toward protecting yourself. After reading this article, you’re already ahead of the game.