How to Spot a Fake Online Dating Profile
Online dating should be exciting.
After all, it’s a chance to meet like-minded individuals, flirt, share, and maybe – just maybe – fall in love.
But there’s a darker side to online dating; one where individuals or groups try to manipulate users into giving up personal information or, more often, money. It’s therefore important that you’re able to spot the telltale signs of romance scammers before they spin you a yarn and take you for a ride.
Here we take a look at some of the major red flags that you’re likely to encounter with dodgy dating profiles.
Four ways to spot fake online dating profiles
As is often the case with online scams, those who perpetrate them typically do not possess English as their first language. This can be quite noticeable on both their profiles and the messages they send.
If you read a user’s profile or message and it just seems ‘off’, chances are they’re using a script as part of a larger criminal organisation. In this case, simply copy the message, paste it into Google, and add the word ‘scam’ to the end. More often than not the search results will confirm your suspicions that you’re dealing with an unscrupulous individual hell bent on emptying your pockets.
Content moderation software company Implio have put together a short list of the types of words and phrases preferred by today’s romance scammers. Keep an eye out for the following:
- I am a God Fearing man/woman
- I am looking for a serious woman
- I am looking for an honest woman/man
- I am a sincere man/woman
- I am so much blessed to have you in my life
- They have a tendency to overuse terms of endearment like “my dear”, “babe”, “angel” and “darling”
- And they often mix pronouns (he/she, him/her)
You might think you know what to look for in a scammer’s profile picture: an impossibly airbrushed, glamorous model or stock photo. And you’d be right. But you need to be wary that scammers have evolved beyond these lazy methods and have actually started to add some authenticity to their profiles.
They do this by using stolen photographs of real people. A technique made all the easier thanks to the rise of social media platforms. Now that people the world over are freely sharing ‘normal’ photos of themselves doing ‘normal’ things, the scammers can pad out their profiles with images that lend their stories a little more credibility.
Typically female profiles will use photos of beautiful young women, while the male profiles will opt for older, handsome gentlemen.
If the content of the profile or message has raised your suspicions, turn to Google once more to check the images. Simply right click on the picture in question and select ‘Search Google for image’. This will open a new tab with all the sources that match the photo. If a social media profile such as Facebook or Twitter is returned in the results with a completely different name/location, you’re almost certainly dealing with a scammer.
3. Profile Descriptions
Focusing solely on the profile descriptions for a moment, there are a few things you need to be aware of before you respond to a message.
Firstly, these scammers want to sell you on something – usually a better life.
They do this by choosing very specific phrases in their profile descriptions. Female profiles will mention that they’ll make the ideal housewife, that they love cooking, and that they want to take care of kids and keep their man happy above all else. And the male profiles will talk of their loyalty, success, and desire for a family.
They’ll also try their best to play on your emotions, mentioning a deceased spouse or the hurt of once being cheated on. He or she is ready to take that first step and make an emotional connection with someone again; could it be with you? In short, they’re trying to make you feel needed, wanted, and special.
Implio also mention another interesting scam marker that they implore dating site moderators to be on the lookout for: salt & pepper hair. Very few self-respecting men would mention this as a trait, but for those on the hunt for their very own George Clooney, it’s usually an attractive characteristic – and one the scammers are happy to try and exploit.
Finally, be on guard for those who wish to move things quickly, and move your discussion away from the dating site to the likes of Skype, Facebook, or email.
Most reputable dating sites are regulated and moderated, meaning you can report a profile that appears spammy or scammy. However, by moving the conversation to something like Skype, you’re essentially giving them free rein to try and break you down emotionally.
They’ll attempt to build a rapport with you to the point where you have developed genuine feelings for this individual, and then they’ll hit you with the ask: they need money to come visit you, or to settle a debt that has them in danger.
And if you decline, they may try to extort the money from you via blackmail.
All in all, it’s not a nice situation to find yourself in, but it’s one that’s totally avoidable if you keep these four things in mind while browsing and chatting on dating sites.
- Don’t move the discussion from the dating site straight away
- Don’t click on any dodgy looking links
- Use Google to verify the legitimacy of profile photos
- Report anything that doesn’t seem right