How to protect yourself against common online dating scams
December 05, 2023
Humans need connection. And algorithm-enhanced dating apps make it increasingly easy to connect with like-minded people.
But as helpful as online dating tools can be, they introduce a new risk to falling in love: scammers conducting nefarious schemes to steal wallets, not hearts.
Keep yourself financially and romantically safe by learning to avoid online dating scams.
What’s an online dating scam?
An online dating scam (or romance scam) involves criminals posing as people looking for love when really, they’re attempting to swindle people they meet online. These scammers forge fake relationships and abuse the emotional connection and “trust” they build with another person to blackmail or rob them.
How do online dating scams work?
Romance scammers match with potential partners' on reputable apps, social media, or fake dating platforms. Then, through their interactions, defrauders:
Mine personal data
Obtain intimate material, like photos and videos, potentially for blackmail
Steal social security or credit card numbers
Common online dating scams to beware of
While dating scammers use their creativity for naught, they’re inventive nonetheless. Here are a variety of common traps to watch for.
Fake dating sites
Fake dating sites look like legitimate platforms for people to meet but have suspiciously few prospects. These sites often ask matches to provide personal information, especially about their financial situation. Fraudulent sites may also start free before asking users to sign up for a premium version later on. The site will pretend to take payment but collect financial data instead.
Sugar daddy scams
In sugar daddy scams, a defrauder poses as a wealthy older person seeking the companionship of a younger partner. The fake sugar daddy pretends they want to offer their companion an allowance but asks for a one-time payment or personal information upfront to steal information.
In this scam, defrauders say they’re about to receive an inheritance but must get married to be eligible. The scammer will ask their beloved to marry them and, soon after, seek money — like funds for flight money so the couple can allegedly meet in person.
Sensitive material scams
Scammers build rapport with their victims and leverage that trust to ask for intimate pictures or videos. The cybercriminal will then use this material to blackmail the person they’re “dating” for money, threatening to post or disseminate the images or videos if they don’t send the solicited funds. In other sensitive material frauds, the scammer requests personal information from someone in exchange for intimate photos (of the scammer themself).
Code verification scams
Cybercriminals send a fake double authentication link via email or text that appears to be from a dating site. This link actually goes to a site that solicits information like financial data or social security numbers.
These scams get people to click on phishing links or unwittingly install malware on their devices. Soon after matching with a prospect, a scammer will send them a link to an apparently legitimate site that redirects to one that phishes data or contains malware. In other cases, the defrauder sends an email attachment with malware.
Military online dating scams
Cybercriminals pose as armed forces members stationed abroad and ask their matches for money, using justifications like needing funds to get home. This scam is similar to the ones in which defrauders pretend they’re doctors or developers working overseas who solicit money in a fake emergency. Scammers swear they’ll pay victims back later but never do.
Catfishing isn’t necessarily a financial fraud, but people can still get hurt. Catfishers use fake identities, including false images of themselves on their dating profiles, duping prospective partners. These people don’t always have bad intentions. They may be insecure, hiding behind the “desirable” image they paint in their dating profiles, but anyone who falls for the catfisher may feel betrayed when they discover the person’s true identity.
Cryptocurrency or investing scams
In cryptocurrency scams, defrauders share an interest in investing with their victims. Over time, the scammer uses their supposed financial expertise to offer advice. The cybercriminal convinces the other person to transfer funds to a high-return crypto investment account, which is fake. This false account will seemingly rack up impressive returns, but it’s all a show, as the scammer has stolen the person’s currency.
8 signs of online dating scams
Scammers are good at what they do, making their bad intentions difficult to detect. But there are a few giveaways that you might be dating one. Protect your financial and emotional wellness by taking a step back if you note any of the following signs.
1. Their profile looks too good to be true
If you match with a billionaire model with a heart of gold and a laundry list of impressive accomplishments to their name, either you’ve struck romantic gold, or the person is a defrauder. Quickly rule out the latter by searching for consistent traces of the person online — ideally posted by others. Tagged photos on social media or a Linkedin profile are great clues.
2. They fall in love fast
Scammers may appear to fall hard and fast — even become obsessed. This is their attempt to win your heart, but their actions aren’t backed by real feelings. Be wary of language like “You’re my soulmate” or other grand gestures if they happen too soon in the relationship.
3. Details shift in their story
A scammer may shift their story to keep you on the hook. Take this online dating scam example: Someone you meet claims they went to a great university and have a lucrative job. But when you research the school and workplace, you find no trace of this person. When you confront the scammer, they backpedal and say, “I forgot to tell you I actually never graduated,” or, “ I just lost my job last week, so the company must have removed my information.” These lies might be too convenient to be true.
4. They make excuses regarding face-to-face communication
If your match consistently skirts video calls or seems too busy to meet in person, treat this behavior as a red flag. These moves can signify that the person isn’t who they say they are, as you’d immediately notice upon seeing them live.
5. They don’t want to use an app you trust
Say you meet someone on a trusted dating app, but they rush to take the conversation offline. This may be an attempt to move the chat to a shady site or start using a messaging or email system. On these less-regulated platforms, the scammer can send and receive data that a reputable dating app wouldn’t permit.
6. You can’t find much about them online
Sure, some people keep a low profile, but most have an online footprint. If you can’t find information about your match or what you do find seems consistent, the person may not be real.
7. They’re “in crisis”
After forging a bond with you, a scammer may feign to share a tragic life story. You might read this act as a show of vulnerability, but the tale could be the groundwork for a money grab. For example, a defrauder might weave a lie about a sick relative to get you to send money for “medical care.”
8. They ask for money
Beware of anyone who asks for money. It’s one thing for someone you’ve gone on several dates with to ask you to Venmo them for a bill you split. But it’s a different scenario if someone you’ve been chatting with asks you to buy a plane ticket so they can meet you or help them in an emergency.
How to protect yourself against online dating scams: 10 tips
Many online dating scams are successful because profiles seem real and users want to hope for the best. So how can you let your guard down enough to meet the perfect match while avoiding scams? Here are 10 tips that can help:
Look for love on reputable, well-known apps like Tinder, Match, or Hinge.
Don’t give personal or financial information to matches online, even if the reason they ask for it seems plausible.
Take precautions when meeting people on social media, even if you don’t intend to pursue them romantically. Strangers who send you a friend request may be scammers.
Get to know someone well online before meeting in person or spending money on plans to do so.
Ensure the person has a consistent, realistic online presence.
Avoid sending intimate images or videos.
Read the reviews of dating sites you use to uncover potential red flags.
Don’t send people you meet online money or gift cards.
If someone suggests taking the conversation offline, insist on staying on a trustworthy app. If they react poorly to your suggestion, that could be a sign they’re worried they won’t be able to fulfill their plan to scam you.
How to report an online dating scam
Getting scammed, especially by someone you were falling for, hurts. Save others from the pain and potentially damaging financial consequences by reporting defrauders:
Block scammers on social media and dating sites, and report them to these platforms if possible.
Report fraudulent activity to your financial institutions and change your banking passwords and credit card numbers.
Report fraud to the FBI via their Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). They may be able to help you recover lost resources.
Let IronVest help you date safely
Anyone falling in love can have rose-colored vision, accidentally letting a scammer into their lives. Protect yourself from the consequences of this negative experience by increasing your internet safety with IronVest.
IronVest uses bank-grade security and biometric fraud prevention to keep your accounts out of the hands of scammers. Get IronVest now to protect your passwords, financial data, and identity while you enjoy the experience of safely connecting with great people online.