Skip to main content

This Valentine’s Day, experts have 4 tips on how to avoid dating app scams

The fest of love is nigh, and so is the risk of becoming the next victim of a dating app scam. Social media is brimming with videos of how you can get the best out of this Valentine’s Day, but only a few are talking about the bad actors that are ready to scam some gullible lovelorn soul on online dating apps.

It’s a huge business, and every year, people do end up heartbroken — along with having a significantly lighter bank account. If you’ve been waiting for some credible research and scientists to give you valuable counsel, your wish has been granted. The folks over at Georgia State University teamed up with experts in criminal justice and cybersecurity to study the world of “romance fraud.”

Related Videos

All the research data was collected from victim testimonials and online platforms, amounting to over 10,000 such reports. What follows are some of the key findings that came out of the research.

Hold on to your emotions

dating online.
Created using Dall-E 2

One of the most common signs of a potential scam is when a person pushes hard emotionally right off the bat. For example, when the person on the other end quickly narrates a tale of deep personal tragedy or tries to elicit a sense of guilt, it’s usually a red flag  —and you should tread with caution.

Through WhatsApp and Instagram status updates, I asked my contacts if they’d personally fallen into the trap of online dating scams, and the responses were surprising. On condition of anonymity, one UX designer told me that a Tinder match recounted their struggles with managing their studies and freelance job while dealing with a sick brother.

In a nutshell, don’t act impulsively in response to stories of misery without proper vetting.

The two sides actually took it slow, and only after two weeks of chatting, did the tale of tragedy come out. No sooner than the victim had wired a significant amount of money, all social media and messaging routes were blocked. The scammer promptly scrubbed their Tinder and Instagram profiles, too. In a nutshell, don’t act impulsively in response to stories of misery without proper vetting. 

Another study published in the Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking journal also mentions that “in romance scams, victims are often asked to urgently send money in an unexpected crisis.” The reverse also happens, turning the victim into a criminal. If a dating match asks to deposit money into your account, that could well be a laundering tactic. On a concluding note, if money talk pops up early, stay on the fence. 

Do not jump platforms

Online scammer.
Created using Dall-E 2

One of the biggest red flags that you should pay close attention to is when the other person tries to move the chat away from a dating app or website. Dating platforms advise against doing that, and some even show a warning banner when they detect a number being shared in the chat. 

Experts behind the latest research say it is a common tactic to “isolate the victim” and get them to a field where it is easier to hoodwink them without any security or reporting mechanism. For example, a bad actor can easily create an account on a dating platform like Telegram without even using their phone number.

If the conversation jumps from a dating app to a messaging platform, avoid sharing personal pictures. If an individual seems too eager to share private images and videos, try to avert the exchange of such media. This could easily evolve into an extortion scam. The best way forward is to get on a video call and not rush into any kind of commitment or deep emotional declarations. 

Look beyond the profile 

Online love.
Created using Dall-E 2

One of the easiest ways to deceive romance seekers is with an attractive profile picture and a handful of generic interests, but nothing peculiar that one usually associates with a unique personality or quirkiness. An excellent piece of research titled Anatomy of the online dating romance scam notes that “all trajectories start with an attractive profile that draws the victim into a potential relationship.”

Published in the February 2013 volume of the Security Journal, the research points out that in the case of a heterosexual male or female individual with an attractive profile picture, they are usually observed seeking a “trustworthy partner” while describing themselves as an honest person.  

These fake profiles often claim that they reside in a different city or country, but are currently living in the victim’s region for work. The best way to vet such profiles is by asking them to talk on a phone call, or — better yet — get them on a video call and verify their identity. If they refuse to do it or show reluctance with sharing recent pictures from their social media sites, stay cautious. 

Be kind, not impulsive

Love in online chat.
Created using Dall-E 2

“Stay away from the EDL types,” we’re often told. In the online dating lingo, EDL stands for Early Declaration of Love. Irrespective of whether you’re looking for a longtime partner or just seeking something casual — if a dating match professes deep love and talks about long-term commitment within a few days or a handful of weeks, it’s a sign that you are being rushed into establishing an emotional bond. 

Experts warn that people who are kind and emotionally mellow in their real lives often fall for such passive coaxing. If you encounter an instance of EDL right on the dating app itself, try to steer clear and don’t entertain such romantic vibes.

Stay away from the EDL types.

It’s hard to get a hold of one’s emotions in scenarios of a sudden and intense declaration of love, but the most reasonable way to handle such scenarios is to take a step back and assess things with an open mind. For example, one of the biggest red flags of an EDL-type scammer is that they pretend to have the same interests in hobbies, content-watching habits, and even ideological perspectives.

Another piece of research published in Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health notes that “within a short time of initiating contact, the scammer tends to speak about the relationship as being permanent, often proposing marriage.” To put it simply, process “love at first sight” sentiments with some caution. 

If you’re willing to dive deep, research covering “romance fraud” has been published in the American Journal of Criminal Justice. Also, if you come across a bad actor and fear that they might harm others online, you can visit the Federal Trade Commission’s dedicated help page to report such accounts. 

Editors' Recommendations

12 iOS 16.4 features that are about to make your iPhone even better
iPhone 14 Pro Max with an iOS 16.4 icon next to it.

While we wait to get our first look at iOS 17 later this summer, Apple has officially released its latest iOS update in the form of iOS 16.4. This is the fourth major iOS 16 update, and there's a surprising amount of new features and goodies to check out.

Following multiple beta versions over the last few weeks, Apple began rolling out the final build of iOS 16.4 to everyone on March 27, 2023. If you have an iPhone and want to know what's new, here's a look at the 12 biggest iOS 16.4 features you need to check out.
Apple Books brings back the page curl effect

Read more
How to blur backgrounds on FaceTime calls
Apple iPhone ringtone best of feat image.

Apple has offered a Portrait mode for selfies since the iPhone X came along with its TrueDepth Face ID camera in 2017. However, it wasn't until 2021 that it became possible to use the built-in Portrait effect for more than just still photos.

With iOS 16, Apple has expanded Portrait mode to encompass live video, and it's especially useful for FaceTime calls, where you can use the bokeh effect to blur out your background for added privacy.

Read more
The best Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra cases: top 20 you can buy
The back of the white Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Samsung has launched its next generation of Galaxy smartphones with the Samsung Galaxy S23 series. Though there are three new models like in previous years, those who want the top-of-the-line flagship device from Samsung will want to pick up the Galaxy S23 Ultra. It's no doubt one of the best Android phones to start off the year.

The big and powerful Galaxy S23 Ultra doesn't come cheap! It starts at $1,200 retail, but it's a solid investment considering that it could easily be the only smartphone you'll need for years to come — it delivers performance like nothing we've ever seen before, and you're guaranteed updates through Android 17. If you want it to last, though, you'll definitely want one of the best Galaxy S23 Ultra cases to keep it safe and sound. We've rounded up the best picks below that offer something for everyone.

Read more