Online dating is a huge, easily-accessible niche that allows many of us to find romance amid our modern, busy lives.
However, we’re also in the era of the scammer, which means cybercriminals are exploiting any and all areas in which they can make a buck or two. The worst part? These scams become more convincing by the day.
Sadly, dating apps are catnip for con artists, so whether you’re an experienced online dating Casanova or are just dipping a toe, here’s how to avoid dating app scams.
1. Look Out for the Red Flags
Yes, we know there are plenty of fish in the sea, but do you know what else is in the sea? Sharks. Here’s how to (metaphorically) protect your heart and wallet from getting bitten.
- If they insist on moving too quickly, run. Scammers will try to rush the relationship, which could include ‘love bombing’ (professing intense feelings quickly/immediately to lure you in). Healthy relationships take time to develop, so if someone seems overly eager, take a step back (or hit the ‘block’ button).
- Take note if they avoid video calls. If your online beau always seems to find excuses to avoid video calls, be wary. Scammers use fake photos and phony profiles, so naturally, a video call would expose them. Video calls are a great way to see if they really are who they say they are.
- Look out for financial requests: You’d think this would be an obvious sign that you’re dealing with a scammer, yet so many people fall for it and give money, credit card details, or PayPal credit so that their match can ‘buy a plane ticket to come visit’. Even if the person isn’t a scammer, asking the person they are dating for money is incredibly rude and off-putting, so steer well clear.
2. Keep Certain Info to Yourself
Yes, sharing is caring, but being discerning about what you share (and to whom) will serve you well when navigating the choppy waters of the dating pool.
Here’s what to keep mum:
- Sensitive info: Avoid sharing private information like your home address, workplace details, or financial information until you’ve established a strong level of trust.
- Have a specific dating email address: It’s wise to create a separate email address solely for online dating. This prevents scammers from accessing your primary email and gaining more info about you.
Top tip: As an additional cautionary move, consider using a VPN (virtual private network) while browsing dating platforms. VPNs encrypt your connection, which keeps scammers from sticking their noses into your online data. To find out more about VPNs, read more about Surfshark.
3. Make Sure Everything’s Legit
Safety is paramount, especially when it comes to online dating, so take the time to discern, verify, video chat, and listen to your gut when it comes to meeting a special someone on a dating app. Remember, if something seems off, it probably is.
Here’s how to verify a potential partner’s authenticity:
- Reverse image search: Perform a reverse image search on your match’s photos via Google or your preferred search engine. This can help you identify if the images have been stolen from other sources. Scammers often use pictures of models, stock images, or stolen social media pics for their profiles.
- Social media profiles: Speaking of social media, have a browse online for their presence on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Legit folks usually have active and consistent social media profiles, so be cautious of profiles with very few friends or recent activity, as they could have been set up as part of the con.
4. Safely Taking the Leap
Although scams are sadly very present within online dating game, this shouldn’t stop you from enjoying genuine and authentic connections. However, prioritizing your safety in every way (not just in terms of being scammed) is key. Here’s how:
- Always meet in a public spot: Choose a well-lit and busy public place for your first meeting. Cafes, restaurants, or parks (in the daytime) are excellent options. NEVER invite them to your home or go to theirs.
- Inform a friend: Let a friend or family member know about your plans, including the location and time of the meeting. Having someone aware of your whereabouts is crucial to keeping safe.
5. Look Out for Inconsistencies
Analyzing the communication patterns of your match can reveal potential red flags. By staying vigilant and following these tips, you can navigate the online dating world confidently and avoid potential scams:
- Grammar & language: Pay attention to their writing style. Poor grammar and inconsistent language could indicate a scammer is using pre-written messages or aren’t from where they say they are. Genuine matches usually communicate in a consistent and authentic manner.
- Evading personal questions: If your match consistently avoids answering personal questions or diverts the conversation away from themselves, it might be a sign of dishonesty or worse – a scam. Dating requires both parties to be vulnerable and open up to each other when they feel comfortable enough to do so.
6. Listening to Your Gut
Instincts never lie, so never ignore that little voice in the back of your mind telling you something is fishy. Your instincts are your best defense against scams, so pay attention to the following little niggles:
- It seems too good to be true: If your match provides info that seems too perfect, be cautious. Scammers create idealized personas to lure victims. Trust your gut if something seems unrealistic. Remember, no one’s perfect!
- Pressure & manipulation: If he/she pressures you to make quick decisions or uncomfortable demands are made, take a big step back. Legit and healthy relationships evolve at a comfortable pace, so don’t let anyone rush you into anything you’re not ready for.
Online dating should be a fun and pleasant way to meet potential friends or partners, but safety should always be at the forefront of your mind. Be discerning, be vigilant, and don’t ignore the red flags.