These days, it can be easy to find love at the click of a button. Dating apps have become increasingly popular in recent years, offering singles the opportunity to find their happiness without having to leave their homes. But while online dating offers a convenient way to meet new people, it also exposes users to a host of potential scams and security issues. In 2021 alone, no less than $547 million (million dollars) was stolen from thousands of users through catfishing in the United States! In order for you to stay safe when using dating sites or apps, it is important that you understand how scammers target victims and how could you detect them. Keep reading this article to protect yourself as you navigate the world of online dating.
What is catfishing?
Catfishing is a type of online fraud and deception that involves creating a false identity in order to exploit someone emotionally or financially. It often happens through social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, and even dating sites. Catfishers create fake profiles with stolen photos or fabricated personal information.
Once the catfisher has established a relationship with the victim, it can ask them for money, gift cards, or sensitive data. In some cases, he may attempt to blackmail the victim after obtaining compromising images. Catfishing scams have been around since the early days of the internet and are still common today. Unfortunately, victims rarely get their money back and can suffer significant emotional harm from these deceptions.
This is the case of “The Tinder Scammer”, a Netflix original film inspired by the true story of an Israeli scammer who extorted money from several women. Her story became more widely known when the film was released in early 2022, prompting MatchGroup – the parent company of popular platforms such as Tinder, Meetic and OkCupid – to launch an awareness campaign to prevent users from falling victim to similar scams.
As part of this campaign, MatchGroup issued warnings about how scammers often use social engineering techniques such as impersonation and false promises to exploit unsuspecting people online. The company has also created a series of resources to help users avoid becoming the target of this type of scam.
How to detect a Catfisher? Here are the red flags!
Pictures too good to be true:
Pictures can often be deceiving. If someone’s profile pictures look too perfect, it could be a warning sign that you’re dealing with a catfisher. His physical form may resemble that of an athlete and his face angelic, with beautiful photos taken in luxurious destinations around the world – all indications that the person could in fact be non-existent. It’s understandable to feel enchanted by such perfect images, but don’t be blinded to the possibility that this is just a facade used by scammers to fool people. If the little voice in your head says, “What is this handsome guy doing on a dating site? », there is a good chance that it deserves to be listened to!
Lack of information in the profile:
People who engage in catfishing usually don’t provide a lot of personal information about themselves or have a detailed description in their profile. Searching their profile to see their online activity, you will notice that they have never been tagged in photos or mentioned on discussion groups or comments. In short, if all the interactions we are used to doing on the various social platforms are almost absent, know that this is a warning sign that you should be wary of.
If the person seems reluctant to meet in any way, it may be a sign of catfishing. Some excuses may seem legitimate, such as “I’m not at home right now”, “I’m too shy”, “there’s someone next to me”,… But it’s important to remember that in the end, there is no valid excuse as to why the person does not want to meet you. Always keep your safety in mind when communicating with someone online and make sure the person has good intentions when talking to you.
If the person provides conflicting stories or details about their life and interests over time, this may indicate dishonesty and catfishing behavior.
If the person asks for money outright, it’s almost always a sign of catfishing, as scammers often try to extort money from unsuspecting victims by posing as love candidates by line.
Suspicious presence on social networks:
Beware if the person’s social media accounts seem fake (e.g. zero followers on Instagram or otherwise bombarded with followers from different countries) or if their accounts were created recently. The most experienced catfishers pay attention to these details and may buy a database of “fake followers” to divert your attention.
A relationship that develops very quickly from the first exchange:
It’s normal to feel a connection with someone you’ve met online, but you should be wary if the relationship develops too quickly. This could be a sign that you are a victim of catfishing. Expressing his love or dream of getting married to you at a young age, where he is willing to provide for you in just a few online exchanges, can mean that something is wrong. If this happens, it is important to research thoroughly and exercise caution before going ahead or agreeing to any request.