Better single than scammed. How to spot and avoid fake profiles on dating apps

Cristina POPOV

February 13, 2024

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Better single than scammed. How to spot and avoid fake profiles on dating apps

Online dating is a huge part of the dating world today and is one of the main ways people look for a partner. The Pew Research Center reports that three in 10 U.S. adults have used dating apps, and more than 40% state that online dating has made dating easier for them.

While online dating has its advantages, it can also pose challenges, such as hindering genuine connections.

As single people are using dating apps more frequently around Valentine's Day, they are more likely to meet someone who may not be a suitable long-term match or, worse, a romance scammer.

Three about love

  • 1 in 4 Valentine's Day spam emails are scams.
  • Nearly 47% of the U.S. population (just over 117 million people) are currently single.
  • Tinder is the most popular dating app, with nearly half of dating app users report using it.

How does one get matched with a scammer on a dating app?

Each app has its matching system, usually involving users filling out profiles with details like their interests, age, gender, and a brief description. Algorithms then suggest potential matches based on this information.

Scammers typically create fake profiles using stolen images from real people's social media or dating profiles. They eagerly "select" all the app's recommendations, waiting to be matched with someone. Once matched, they begin to cultivate the relationship by showing love and interest. They often suggest moving the conversation off the app to platforms like WhatsApp or Telegram.

While this pattern is common, dating scams can occur anywhere. Read Georgina's story, a victim of a romance scam that happened on social media.

The Pew Research Research shows that around half (52%) of those who've used dating sites and apps have come across someone they think was trying to scam them. Men under 50 are especially likely to report such experiences, with 63% in this age group suspecting they've encountered scammers. 47% of men aged 50 and older and 44% of women of all ages also reported encountering scammers.

How to identify a fake online profile (Catfishing)

A romance scammer, also known as "catfish," is someone who sets up a fake online profile to trick people looking for love to send them money.

Here are some key signs and behaviors that may indicate you are dealing with one:

· A perfect match. Be wary of profiles that show supermodel-like appearances. Catfishers use attractive photos to lure unsuspecting victims into their scams.

· Excessive Curiosity. They want to learn every detail about you and ask for personal information, like your full name, address, date of birth, or bank details.

· No digital footprint. Search and look at their social media presence. Recently created accounts with few friends, posts, or photos should raise suspicions.

· Overwhelming affection. Scammers often attempt to rapidly establish emotional connections. If they tell you they love you rapidly and try to get you to message them off the platform, it could be a scam.

· Distant location. Be cautious if your match claims to live far away and cannot meet in person. Scammers may fabricate stories about being in the military or working for international organizations to justify their inability to meet.

· Avoidance of face-to-face interaction. Notice if your match consistently avoids video chats or face-to-face meetings, offering excuses to cancel plans. Genuine individuals seeking a connection are typically open to personal interactions.

· Requests for money or gifts: This clearly indicates a scam. Romance scams often involve financial fraud, with scammers requesting money for various reasons such as visas, customs fees, medical bills, or plane tickets to visit you.

How can you avoid being catfished?

There are several precautions you can take to protect yourself from falling victim to relationship scams:

1. Stay on the app, report, and block. Scammers often attempt to move conversations to other platforms. Remain within the dating app and use the available tools to ensure your privacy and safety. If anything feels suspicious, don't hesitate to report and block the individual.

2. Keep your personal details private. Avoid divulging too many personal info, such as your full name, date of birth, or bank information, to individuals you've just met online.

3. Don't send money. Regardless of the reasons they give or how long you've been speaking to them, don't send money to someone you've never met in person.

4. Check them out in-app, on Google, and with Bitdefender Scamio:

  • Look for 'Verified' Badges: Some platforms offer 'verified' badges to users who have taken extra steps to confirm their identity. Consider setting up video chats before meeting in person to check the authenticity of your match.
  • Search them online. Check they're genuine by putting their name, profile pictures, and the term 'dating scam' into your search engine.
  • Use Bitdefender Scamio to analyze your match's photos, profile, and story for any signs of scams. You can copy-paste messages received, upload an image, send a link, or describe your situation, and Scamio analyzes it and informs you if it's safe. Scamio is free and doesn't require downloading any app or having previous access to a Bitdefender product. You can access it on any device or operating system via your web browser or Facebook Messenger.

Romance scams come in different shapes and can change over time, so it's vital to stay alert and use all the tools you have. For instance, choose dating apps that confirm user identities, let you block and report users, and allow you to adjust your settings. Don't settle for less when it comes to love and safety as they go hand in hand.



Cristina POPOV

Cristina is a freelance writer and a mother of two living in Denmark. Her 15 years experience in communication includes developing content for tv, online, mobile apps, and a chatbot.

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