Fake online profiles have become an epidemic in the world of online dating.
If you’re not sure how to spot fake online profiles from real ones, then welcome to the club!
Fake dating profiles are super common — in fact, around one in 10 online dating profiles are fake and intended to scam people looking for love.
In 2019 alone, the FTC reported that consumers lost more than $200 million dollars to online dating scams.
Whether it’s subscribing to their band’s fan page or wiring money to a Nigerian prince, it’s important to know how to spot a fake profile to protect yourself.
Here are 8 ways to spot a fake dating profile and avoid getting sucked into an online dating scam.
1. They use “power words.”
These keywords found in the majority of fake online profiles include the words: Catholic, widowed, female, Ph.D., engineer, self-employed, and royalty.
If you’re wondering why the word “female” is on the list, this is because 25 percent of men pretend to be the opposite gender to get someone’s attention online.
People who create fake profiles want to catch your eye. They use words or pictures they think will spark your interest.
Scammers create profiles with specific people in mind and target their profiles to a specific audience to try and get the best results.
If you see any of the above words heavily emphasized on a profile, there’s a chance that it belongs to a scammer. While there are certainly authentic profiles that will have these keywords, consider it a red flag.
Instead of disregarding the profile immediately, do some digging and see if there are any other classic signs of a fake profile.
2. They send nonsensical messages.
Drunk messages are one thing, but fake online profiles run through robotic messaging systems tend to make little to no sense. Sometimes it will be strangely worded sentences, or maybe an odd usage of emojis or phrases.
This is because most of the fake profiles belong to either robots or non-English speakers.
According to a study, many online dating scammers originate in countries like Nigeria or Ghana.
This point also applies to their profile. Are there grammatical errors and spelling mistakes in their information? Are they posting irrelevant information into random sections of their page?
If so, there’s a good chance it’s all copied-and-pasted from somewhere else.
If you can’t carry on a conversation with an online dating site user, that should be a red flag — even if their profile is real!
Trust your gut. If the conversation seems weird, do some research before you continue.
3. They only have one photo.
Photos are one of the most important aspects of your online profile. Having only one can be a major red flag, especially if the person is extremely attractive in that one photo.
Fake online profiles are usually designed to be appealing so that people are much more likely to engage with them.
Many catfishers use a picture of someone else. If they seem obnoxiously attractive, they’re probably just trying to bait you.
If you’re really unsure if it’s fake or not, save the image to your computer and do a reverse-image search on Google. If you can find the image in a Google search, more than likely it’s a fake profile.
4. They have empty profiles.
It’s important to read profiles carefully.
Not only will you spot red flags in real profiles, but empty or nearly-empty profiles are often fake. If there are large sections that are left empty or filled with the same information over and over, it’s probably fake.
Large blank spaces mean that the person who created the profile probably doesn’t actually care about whatever the profile is supposed to achieve (attracting a romantic partner, making career connections, etc.).
Empty profiles show that the person behind them is just looking for an “in” so that they can manipulate you into giving them information or money.
5. Empty social networks.
If you genuinely want to keep only close friends in your social profiles, that’s fine. But that bikini-clad model with only one photo and 60 friends on Facebook is probably fake.
Facebook estimates that as many as five percent of its 2.38 billion active monthly users are fake.
A real profile will have a history of posts, photos, or other signs of engagement that will tell you about that person. If the profile has little to no activity, it was probably set up quickly to try and trick someone.
The reason that this profile only has a few friends is because they sent friend requests to thousands of people in the hopes of making their social media profile look authentic, but only a few people fell for it.
6. They’re “famous” or “royals.”
Celebrities, princes, and archdukes can all be found through online dating sites. Unfortunately, they’re not generally real.
A quick Google search will tell you if there is a prince or celebrity with the name on the profile. If that person does exist, look through the image results. Chances are, you’ll probably find the image that the person used for their fake profile.
If the person is really insistent or you’re not sure, ask them to video chat with you or to send a picture.
Tell them to write a specific word on a piece of paper and hold it up in a picture of them so you know it’s not just another picture they found online.
They’ll probably leave you alone entirely if you can show that you’re not going to fall for any old trick.
If someone says he’s the CEO of a well-known company, do some fact-checking of your own. Go to that company’s website and find out the actual CEO’s name, too.
7. They’re too forward.
Many online dating scams come in the form of porn and prostitution.
If you’re receiving steamy messages from someone you’ve never met or spoken to, don’t be surprised if they ask you to pay for their photos or enter their website soon thereafter.
Some people are very forward and that’s just their style. But give it time and make sure that this person is actually interested in you and not just your wallet.
8. They request your personal information.
Whether they’re trying to steal your credit card number or your identity, an online dating profile requesting your full name, address, phone number, or social security number is not someone you want to continue talking to.
A stranger online should never ask you for bank account information, social security number, credit card information, your specific address, or any other sensitive information.
Don’t be afraid to be stern with people asking these questions. If they ask for your info, tell them that you aren’t comfortable with that. Ask them why they need it. Be suspicious.
If it was a miscommunication and the person is actually interested in you or actually cares about you, they’ll probably back off and apologize for making you uncomfortable.
However, if they’re being pushy, aggressive, or trying to rush you by saying there’s an emergency, don’t fall for it.
So, what steps can you take toward protecting yourself from attracting attention from the fakes and from falling for them?
First and foremost, start by improving your own profile.
A great profile with some high-quality photos will attract a larger percentage of quality messages. If your profile is weak, you will mostly get messages from fake profiles.
To protect yourself from harm when meeting someone new, you can run your own background checks on potential dates or on profiles you suspect to be fake using third-party services you trust.
Make sure to talk to your friends about the person that you’re talking to or planning to meet. This will not only protect you in potentially dangerous situations, but people outside of the relationship may be able to spot red flags, too.
Never share your personal information with anyone online.
There’s no surefire way to get fakes to stop contacting you. But if you learn to spot them, you lose the risk of falling for an online dating scam.
If you have been in contact with a catfisher or scammer and you only realize afterward that they seem phony, don’t be afraid to block them or report them to the platform that you’re communicating on.
Trust your gut instinct. If you’re not sure whether a profile seems legit, play it safe. Look for the profiles that have completed information and a lot of pictures.
Claire Bahn is an online branding expert who wants to help with your personal brand on everything from dating profiles to LinkedIn. For more information on how she can improve your online presence, visit her website here.
This article was originally published at Online Profile Pros. Reprinted with permission from the author.