There is zero doubt that online dating makes it so much easier to make romantic connections—the convenience is great! But with the benefits also come some risks—there could be dangerous people lurking behind that cute profile picture on a dating app.
So, while we love almost everything about dating apps, we aren’t naive and know they can sometimes harbor hidden dangers. And those dangers are scammers.
While we wish it weren’t the case, online dating scams are getting increasingly sophisticated, leaving unsuspecting singles vulnerable if they don’t know what to look out for or how to protect themselves against them.
For the most part, dating apps are safe, but we want to make sure our readers are armed with the right ammunition and tools to use these platforms safely—and our comprehensive guide is here to help! This guide to protecting yourself from online dating scams will tell you all you need to know about how to spot, avoid, and take action as it relates to scams when looking for love online.
What Are Online Dating Scams?
The majority of online dating scams involve shady people making fake profiles to exploit and take advantage of those who are looking for love online. Understanding how they operate and what kind of tactics they use is vital knowledge for anyone who uses online dating to make romantic connections.
These romance scams usually involve someone (aka the catfish) creating a fake dating profile on an app—when they match with someone, they build a relationship, only to eventually exploit the connection for monetary gain or personal info. Not only can they steal money from you, making it financially devastating, but the emotional toll it takes on a person who is swindled can be just as damaging as the financial one.
Using Safety Tools to Verify People
Look, the scary fact is that anyone can hide behind a screen and pretend to be someone else while on a dating app. But there are ways to check out if a potential match is for real!
There are some great tools out there that will help keep you safe from the nefarious cardigan—and one of the best is actually called Social Catfish, which is very fitting. While you can do your own searching and verifying, this service does it for you to see if the identities of your online connections are who they say they are. They use techniques like reverse image search to check if the profile pics of who you are chatting with are real or if they belong to a model in Siberia—some scammers steal photos from others’ social media accounts. If you want to know how it works, you can read our review of Social Catfish to get all of the details!
Types of Online Dating Scams
Scammers on dating apps have a lot of different and slick methods to deceive and defraud their marks. From emotional manipulation to financial fraud, understanding and spotting these scams is paramount for your safety.
The most common online dating scams include catfishing, where scammers create fake profiles to reel in victims; phishing attempts to extract sensitive personal details and info; and romance scams, where the scammer forms a connection or relationship with the goal of asking for money for an “emergency” situation.
Researching and Avoiding Blacklisted Apps
Basically, choosing the right dating app is almost as important as choosing the right partner. Some platforms are known for scammers populating them, and knowing which ones to steer clear of is super important.
In the big arena of online dating platforms, and we mean big, some are known to be teeming with scammers and not-so-safe—or any safety—practices. We thought it would be a good idea to put all of these shady platforms in a handy list, which is why we created our dating apps blacklist. This provides an extensive list of such apps to stay away from!
When choosing a dating app, look for red flags like a lack (or none at all) of user reviews, bad ratings, or reports of fraudulent activities. Always look for apps that have transparent privacy policies and a proven track record of user safety. A little research goes a long way in making sure your online dating experience is both safe and successful!
Choosing Safe Dating Apps
The basic bedrock of a safe online dating experience lies in choosing the right platform. Most mainstream, well-known, and reputable dating apps typically offer strong security features and a more rigorous user verification process, which does wonders in cutting back the danger of encountering scammers.
For a curated list of the most reputable dating apps, you can check out our list of safe dating apps! These platforms put great emphasis on your safety and privacy, which means you can focus on finding potential connections instead of constantly wondering if you’re going to fall victim to a scammer.
Spotting Scam Patterns and Red Flags
The ability to suss out the red flags online dating scams typically employ can be your BFF and your best weapon against those who wish to take advantage of you.
Scammers often follow predictable patterns in their attempt to swindle unsuspecting singles, so be wary of really fast—too fast—displays or words of affection, which can be a sneaky tactic to gain your trust. Another huge red flag is the reluctance or refusal to meet in person or hop on a video call—these pretty much clinch that the person is not who they say they are. And it should go without saying, but we have to say it: Any request for money, under any pretext, should be a non-starter and a dealbreaker. Trust your instincts—if something feels not quite right, listen to your gut.
Protect Your Personal Info
Protecting your personal info and details online is pretty much as important as protecting your heart and emotions.
Your sensitive personal information is a valuable and sought-after asset in the world of scammers. You can safeguard it by using strict privacy settings on your dating app profiles and social media. And never share personal details like your home address, workplace, or any financial info, especially with someone you’ve just met online—they are a stranger, no matter how much you have in common. Be on the lookout for invasive or suspicious requests for information—these are most likely attempts at phishing or potential identity theft.
What to Do If You’re Scammed
Falling victim to a scammer sucks; there is simply no other way to put it. Hopefully, it won’t happen to you, but if it does, there are some things you can do to heal and protect others so they don’t end up in the same boat as you.
If you find yourself the victim of a dating scam, it’s important to act fast—report it to the dating app where it occurred, and you can also involve law enforcement if there has been any financial fraud. Getting the right kind of emotional and legal support in the aftermath of a scam won’t magically heal your heartbreak or replenish any lost money, but it can help in dealing with the aftershock. There are forums and organizations that offer support to those who have been victims of online dating scams, and they are a good resource.
Above all else, remember that being scammed is in no way a reflection of your character; it’s a reflection of the scammer’s deceit.
You shouldn’t be scared to make use of dating apps, but you should use them with caution! Online dating safely is a mix of keeping your wits about you, the right information, and the right tools that are at your disposal.
By staying alert and hyper-vigilant, you can take advantage of the amazing benefits they have to offer while minimizing the safety risks. Because when it comes to romance, it’s always better to be safe than sorry—your heart and your bank account balance will thank you for taking precautions!