In 2014, the FBI received more than 5,800 romance scam complaints. It’s no secret that there are deceptive people online who want to take advantage of others who might be in a vulnerable state — such as when they’re looking for love.
Our goal is to help lower those 5,800 complaints to zero as quickly as possible, so we’ve put together some important tips about spotting online dating scams and choosing sites you can rely on. Feel free to use the links below if you want to jump ahead in the article.
Ways to Spot Common Online Dating Scams
Staying safe online is all about knowing what to look for. Here are some of the most common online dating scams we’ve found in our research and how to avoid them. Once you’re in the know, the power is in your hands.
1. They Ask for Money
Someone with genuine intentions will never ask a stranger online for money — that’s what friends, family, and banks are for. If a match is asking you to pay for something — whether for their travel arrangements to come see you, their online dating membership because it’s expiring soon, or anything else — block and report them to the site right away.
2. They Use Poor Grammar and Make a Lot of Spelling Mistakes
We all miss commas and make a typo here and there, but if a dating profile or message is made up of 90% mistakes, that’s cause for an eyebrow raise. A significant number of scammers are from other countries (usually Russia, Nigeria, Ghana, Ukraine, South Africa, Jamaica, or Brazil), so keep an eye out for a lot of broken English and weird word choices.
It’s also worth copying and pasting a few of their sentences into Google to see if they stole that language from someone else or another site.
3. They Have Few Pictures or Only One
When you’re online dating, photos are equally as important as text, so if you’re talking with someone who only posted three or just one, your Spidey sense should be going off. If it’s one photo, usually it’s of a beautiful young woman. This isn’t to say every beautiful young woman is a phony, but online dating scammers tend to target men, especially older men.
You could try to prove they are who they say they are by making a game of it. Send a selfie (keep it PG) and ask for one of them right then. You can also plug a photo into Google’s reverse image search to see if it appears somewhere else (aka a stock photo depository).
4. They Express Strong Feelings for You Very Soon
Love at first sight can definitely happen, and there have been plenty of stories about people who fell in love within weeks of meeting and who are still together today. However, you want to somewhat guard your feelings online when you find someone you click with — at least at the beginning.
If an online match seems to be rushing the getting-to-know-each-other phase and jumping right into declarations of “I’ve been waiting for someone like you for my whole life” or “I can’t believe we found each other,” and you haven’t met in person yet, they could be trying to appeal to your emotional side. Even though it feels good to have someone say these things to us, remember you still don’t really know this person.
5. They Keep Putting Off Meeting in Person
The end goal of online dating is to find someone you like and get offline ASAP. When the person you’re talking to constantly has an excuse for why they can’t meet up, you should be wary. They’re either not into you, or they aren’t who they say they are and are trying to scam you.
A majority of scams involve someone who says they’re in a different country, so it makes sense that it would take a while to go on a real-life date, right? However, this is their reasoning for why you should send them money. Something else to consider is why would they be looking for someone outside of their own country, and why would they do so if they can’t afford to get there in the first place?
Scam-Free Dating Sites
The facts above can be pretty depressing, but don’t let them get you down. There are dating websites out there you can trust, and we’ve compiled a list of the best below. These sites have all have been around for years (even decades), use strict screening processes and advanced technology to protect members, and receive positive reviews regularly.
Match.com was founded in 1995, making it the first dating site ever. No one has more history and is more respected in the online dating industry than Match. The site has four out of five stars on Google Play, was called one of the top 100 sites by PC Magazine, and is responsible for the most romantic connections of any of its competitors.
In terms of safety, Match offers customer service via chat Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST as well as 24/7 support via email. You can also check out their How to Date Safely page, which will tell you how to report suspicious behavior and keep your personal and financial information private.
Zoosk came onto the online dating market in 2007 when mobile apps were just starting to take off. Zoosk was, at one point, the number one grossing dating app and a top 25 grossing app in the App Store. We’d credit a majority of this popularity to the Behavioral Matchmaking™ system, which remembers your on-site behavior (who you search for, like, message, etc.) and uses that information to deliver highly compatible matches.
If you experience any problems on the site or app, the Zoosk team can be reached at (888) 939-6675 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Zoosk also provides numerous do’s and don’ts for identifying scammers and getting their profiles removed.
Not only is EliteSingles one of the most unique dating websites out there, with a focus on education, but the site also has some of the most reliable security features. These include the Trust and Safety page, which answers frequently asked questions such has “How secure are my personal details?” and SSL-encryption technology (you’ll notice the lock symbol on the left side of the URL).
The site also has personnel dedicated to monitoring for fraudsters, reviewing every profile and photo before it’s uploaded, and writing blog posts to keep members informed.
eHarmony is another pioneer in this space, having been co-created in 2000 by Dr. Neil Clark Warren, a clinical psychologist, marriage counselor, relationship author, Christian theologian, and seminary professor. The site is for serious-minded daters and uses an in-depth questionnaire to pair them.
The main thing people seem to like about eHarmony is the site does all the searching and matching, which means potential scammers are less likely to be on the prowl since they have less control.
Safety is usually a top concern for online daters, especially mature singles, and that’s where OurTime comes in. This site is exclusively for men and women aged 50 and older, so it knows how to cater to this audience and their needs.
In addition to having a user-friendly layout, search functionality, and matching process, OurTime has an extensive tips section similar to Match’s.
6. Christian Mingle
Launched in 1998, Christian Mingle is somewhat of an oldie in terms of dating websites, but it’s still definitely a goodie. And the safety components just keep coming. The team inspects all of the site’s profiles and photos and addresses dozens of concerns on the FAQs page, including how to choose a fun but secure username and not to worry about asking a match a lot of questions.
As long as you’re communicating on Christian Mingle, you’re protected by their features, so we’d recommend messaging and chatting with your matches on the site until you’ve gone on a few dates and are comfortable with them.
BlackPeopleMeet is part of the People Media family, just like Match and OurTime, so the site has pretty much all of the same security tools. On the Dating Tips page, you’ll find advice from the team as well as links to other expert resources such as the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Hotline and the National Violence Hotline.
BlackPeopleMeet also sends a verification email to every new user, so if a scammer is using a fake account, they’re more likely to get caught.
Another well-known senior dating site, SeniorPeopleMeet puts users first and understands the individual desires of mature daters. Take a look at the comprehensive Help section, which will walk you through things like hiding your profile if you want to and blocking someone who’s being abusive to you or other members.
The customer care team can be reached Monday through Friday (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST) at 1-866-727-8920, or you can fill out the Contact Us form. Using the latter method, you should expect to get a response within 48 hours.
Sometimes people think hookup sites can’t be safe, but that’s not always the case. BeNaughty wants frisky singles to have a fun and equally safe experience, so the site utilizes SSL encryption technology, just like EliteSingles, and requires members to confirm their identity via a text or a phone call.
“Our security system can recognize fraud and scam at the registration step. That, combined with our security policy, which states a member can choose what data to store, makes BeNaughty a safe and secure place to date,” Vera Bulgakova, ?hief Marketing Officer of Together Networks (BeNaughty’s parent company), told us.
Take Your Safety Into Your Own Hands!
Just because there are people in the world with bad intentions, that doesn’t mean we should live in fear. Online dating is still a great way to meet people, and if you utilize the tips above, you can protect yourself from con artists and not fall victim to one of the 5,800 annual romance scams.