Do you know how to spot an online dating scam? Most of us have heard of them but learning how to avoid them is a little more tricky.

This is because scammers are highly skilled in manipulating your emotions. They appear to be charming, infatuated by you and often just too good to be true.

If you are on the online dating scene, it is essential that you learn to recognize the red flags of a dating scam or catfishing. Anybody active on dating apps and dating websites will come across them at some point but that doesn’t mean you have to get duped them.

Read on to find out how to spot an online dating scam and how to avoid getting swindled.


Signs of an Online Dating Scam

Model Photos

Dating sites and dating apps ask their members to upload photos for a reason. It is one of the ways you can spot a fake account.

Many scam artists pull photos from the internet. If the person looks irresistible and the shots seem a little too professional, chances are that they are photos of a model, not the person you are actually talking to.


How to Avoid:

Put photos that seem too good to be true into the Google reverse image search. This tool shows you where else the photo has been posted online.

You might come across the social media account of the real person or notice that the same photos are being used for stock photos. In short, they are not who they claim to be.


Limited or Blurry Photos

Besides using model photos, dating scammers may also decide to show as little as possible in the photos. They can either decide to only upload a profile photo or only photos where it is difficult to see their face and body properly.

Sure, some people are camera shy but those that are serious about dating know that posting more pictures increases their chances of interaction. They are hiding something if they cannot show themselves on their profile.


How to Avoid:

Only respond to dating profiles with clear photos and at least 3 photos in their profile. Note that photos with animated filters do not count as a clear photo.

No profile photo or a photo album where the photos don’t seem to correspond is a red flag. If you are sharing photos of yourself, they should be willing to do so, too.


Who Are They Interested In?

Scammers are not picky with their victims and this becomes apparent in their description of the ideal partner. Anyone living anywhere and of any age is a potential victim to them.

If they set their age preference too wide (e.g. more than 15 years) and without a preference for location, they might be on the hunt. Most people have a clearer picture of their ideal partner in their mind, scammers don’t.


How to Avoid:

Look for dating profiles that are more detailed about the type of person they are looking for. Age range and location are often the most telling signs of a scammer.


Profile Description Doesn’t Match

Many scammers set up several profiles at the same time to draw in as many conversations as possible. They can create elaborate stories but there are often ways to spot a lie in their stories.

Does their profile description not match what they tell you in a private conversation or do the details not add up? You can’t blame them, it is difficult to keep a fake story straight.


How to Avoid:

The first step is to not react to profile descriptions that seem too good to be true or too vague. You might also recognize certain sentences or patterns which indicates they are posing under several profiles at the same time.

Once you get to talking, ask them questions to determine whether they were telling the truth in their profile. They are telling a lie if their profile description doesn’t match the story to they tell you in a private chat.


They Never Video call or Always Cancel Dates

Unlike with photos, it is very difficult to fake being someone else in a video call. If they are not up for a video call, even after long chats, they don’t want to be seen.

Similarly, you might have been chatting for a long time but they never seem able to meet in person. This often comes paired with agreeing to a date but then cancelling last minute, often with a complicated or fishy reason.


How to Avoid:

If you have been chatting for more than 1 – 2 weeks, ask to have a video call. Stop talking to them if they refuse or come up with bad excuses not to.

Cancel them if they keep canceling your dates. Someone that is truly interested in you would put in more effort to see you.


They Rush the Relationship but Never Meet

Sometimes you meet someone online and have an incredible click them – it really is possible. However, most people have the common sense to wait until they have met in person before getting too wrapped up in the relationship.

Dating scam artists don’t wait to meet you in real life to profess their love for you. In fact, they quickly say those 3 magic words and often put marriage on the table early on.


How to Avoid:

No matter how great the online relationship is, don’t let your feelings get too caught up until you have actually met. Having a long-distance relationship that started on a dating site is different to having a long distance relationship with someone you have actually met before.

If they seem too eager to lock you down, they might be after more than your love and attention. Do not commit to anything until you have met in person.


They Ask for Money or Your Financial Information

Scammers on dating sites and dating apps are after your money. Some will ask you for money early on but others are able to string you along for months before asking for financial help.

No matter how long you have been in contact, it is never okay for them to ask you for money. They also have no valid reason for knowing your banking details, no matter how heartbreaking or elaborate their story may be.


How to Avoid:

Never ever send money – it is as simple as that. Also, never provide your banking details because they may use this to hack into your financials.

Another common money scam is sending you money and then asking you to transfer it back to a different account or as a gift card – this is money laundering. Finally, never agree to sign any legal documentation.


They Want to Chat Offline

Most online dating sites and dating apps have a team that monitors the members for suspicious activity. The longer scammers are active on these apps and websites, the bigger the chance that they get caught.

Genuine people will only communicate through the app or website because they know it is the safest option for them, as well. Scammers may ask you for your phone number or email before actually meeting or worse, they send you a link to a different communication platform which contains a virus.


How to Avoid:

Always keep your communication on the dating site or app. Do not provide your personal contact information or address, even if they seem very nice or claim to have a good reason to take the conversation elsewhere.

The general rule for online dating is to not share personal contact information until the end of the first date. This gives you the chance to find out if they really are who they claim to be and whether you truly want to stay in contact with them.


Their English Is Bad

We all make a few spelling and grammar mistakes sometimes but scammers are especially prone to them. This is because English is not the first language of many scam artists.

Besides bad spelling and grammar, their texts may be full of misplaced capitals and symbols. Another red flag is if their texts seem copy-pasted and not matching up to what you are replying to them.

How to Avoid:

Stop messaging with someone with too many mistakes in their English or send messages that feel spammy. The conversation should flow naturally for two people that both speak English.


They Claim to Live/Work Abroad

Most dating sites ask their members for their location as part of a profile verification measure. This information is also used to show members which other profiles are actually living in their area.

Scam artists rarely target someone living nearby because that would make it too easy to get caught. Most will have their location set to your area but then claim to live or work abroad, either temporarily, long-term or for an indefinite amount of time.


How to Avoid:

This goes back to #4 about their profile description not matching what they tell you in a private message. If their profile location does not match where they claim to be currently, stop talking to them.

Common excuses include being part of the army, being stationed on an oil rig, being on a business trip or simply just forgetting to change their location. If they were serious about dating, they would set their location to where they are actually living.

Listing all these red flags of dating scams makes it sound easier than it really is. After all, many scam artists are great at playing into your emotions.

So, the best advice for online dating is to always be skeptical of people that either seem too good to be true or are too vague. If something doesn’t feel right, that is your instinct telling you that the person can’t be trusted.