Dating Scams Are Up 40 Percent—Here’s How to Spot One

Make sure that you don't let yourself fall victim to online dating with these tips from trusted online dating professionals.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, in-person dating has become near-impossible, leaving online dating as the only viable solution while stay-at-home orders are still enforced. It’s undoubtedly a time where fear, loneliness, anxiety, and depression are at an all-time high, which leaves individuals in a vulnerable state where they may fall victim to dating scams. It’s likely one of the reasons they’re up nearly 40 percent since 2018, according to a recent report published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with Americans losing a reported $201 million as a result in 2019 alone.

These numbers don’t surprise Eric Resnick, an online dating profile writer and founder of ProfileHelper. “The increase in popularity of online dating is also going to generate an increase in people trying to take advantage of that,” he says. “Due to COVID-19, scammers are using the current state of anxiety and vulnerability to create bonds at a much faster rate than they would normally be able to do with the general population of singles.” Tack on the lack of influence from friends and family, who are also at a distance during this time, and it’s the perfect breeding ground for a dating scam to occur.

Dating scams come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s important to be aware of the red flags so you don’t find yourself falling victim.

Their profile seems out of touch

When reading an online profile, it’s important to look at the language. Is the profile description spotty with odd words or are they using too many emojis? “Most online dating scammers are located in other countries, so if the profile description looks odd and they can’t carry on a conversation in the English language this is a huge red flag,” says Amanda Rose, dating expert, matchmaker and founder and CEO of Dating Boutique and Prestige Connections. Dating after 40? Don’t make these mistakes.

They refuse to meet up over video

Most of us are familiar with the term “catfish,” or someone who creates a fake dating profile using someone else’s photo and biographical information. The best way to weed out a catfish is to have a face-to-face chat or at least one over video chat. “It’s easy to fake who you are in texts, emails, and even in photos, but it is much harder to fake who you are in a video,” says Resnick. “In the same way that a scammer will never meet you in person, they are also very unlikely to be willing to have a video check-in.”

Their photos show up somewhere else online

If their photos seem too-good-to-be-true, Resnick recommends uploading one or more through Google Image Search to find out if that exact photo appears elsewhere on the Internet. “If it appears on personal pages, or even a business page, that makes sense, but if you see the photo popping up on shady-looking dating sites, picture post sites, or even porn sites, you are probably talking to a scammer,” he says. These are the photos your dating profile absolutely must have, according to matchmakers

They request to take the conversation off the dating app

A scammer will often ask to take the conversation offline to a personal email or Whatsapp, explains Rose. “They know their time is short on the online dating site, since they’re targeting multiple people and will likely get reported in the near future,” she says. “It’s a major red flag if they appear pushy to take the conversation off of the online dating site.” To stay on the safe side, continue communicating through the app until you are able to meet in-person.

They ask for personal information such as your full name, address, or phone number

It’s important to stay on the defense to ward off potential dating scammers. As a best practice, never share any personal information, such as your full name, address, social security number, bank information or place of employment. “If the scammer is savvy enough (and most of them are), they can even use things like the name of your boat or your license plate info to find out where you live and tons of other personal details about you,” says Resnick. Is online dating a waste of your time?

They ask you to send them money or gifts

If someone you’re talking to on an online dating platform goes into a long story about how they don’t have enough money to pay their bills, it’s a red flag, according to Dave Bowden, online dating expert and confidence coach. “Because they’re savvy, they won’t come out and ask you for the money,” he says. “They’ll ply you with sad stories that make them seem like hard-working but down-on-their-luck heroes until you’re convinced that giving them the money to achieve their goals is your idea.”

Don’t make yourself a target in your profile

You can deter potential scammers from approaching you by creating a smart dating profile that is classy, upbeat and positive. “Scammers look for easy targets especially people that are vulnerable and lonely and often target men and women in their 50s and 60s who are widowed or divorced,” says Rose. She recommends not including any personal emotional details in your profile that could make you an easy target, like sharing that you are a widow looking to make connections and are longing for a partner. “These types of messages make you appear desperate for a connection,” Rose adds.

Dating scams are part of the picture, but not the whole picture

Like any other area of life, scams in dating exist. But the majority of people on online dating sites are there for the same reason as you—to find a genuine connection with another human, and maybe even love. “Everything in life has some risks attached to it, but if you use some common sense, and follow some of the tips that I’ve laid out, you can have a safe and exciting online dating experience,” adds Resnick. Next, read on as 28 real-life couples reveal how they knew they had found the one.

Jenn Sinrich
Jenn Sinrich is an experienced digital and social editor in New York City. She's written for several publications including SELF, Women's Health, Fitness, Parents, American Baby, Ladies' Home Journal and more.She covers various topics from health, fitness and food to pregnancy and parenting. In addition to writing, Jenn also volunteers with Ed2010, serving as the deputy director to Ed's Buddy System, a program that pairs recent graduates with young editors to give them a guide to the publishing industry and to navigating New York.When she's not busy writing, editing or reading, she's enjoying and discovering the city she's always dreamed of living in with her loving fiancé, Dan, and two feline friends, Janis and Jimi.