Online Dating Scams: Everything You Need to Know

article by Maria Perinic
May 12, 2020
There are millions of people looking for love online right now. The truth is, with today’s busy lifestyle, many of us are looking to online platforms to weed through the sea of people in order to find a forever partner. As many as 60% of US adults believe online dating to be a good way to meet people.

However, online dating scams are alive and well, with people looking to take advantage of vulnerable souls looking for their person. Here are some online dating scams statistics from  the FTC:

“In 2018, Sentinel had more than 21,000 reports about romance scams, and people reported losing a total of $143 million – that’s more than any other consumer fraud type identified in Sentinel. These reports are rising steadily. In 2015, by comparison, people filed 8,500 Sentinel reports with dollar losses of $33 million.”

Luckily, there are online dating scam signs that you can look for to keep yourself safe.

How Do Online Dating Scams Work?

Online romance scammers tend to lure people in with fake online profiles. Online dating scam signs include finding attractive photos of other individuals online. We’re not saying that you should doubt people who are physically attractive, but online dating scammer photos go as far as stealing other people’s photos along with creating convincing personas. This includes making up names or even assuming the identity of another person. They are active on both dating apps as well as social media platforms that are not primarily designed for dating.

As soon as these fraudsters make contact with you, they dive straight into a whirlwind romance, with the relationship evolving quickly. Soon, they confess that they need money, either for some type of medical emergency or to fly overseas to see a sick relative. Many of them claim to be stationed abroad as part of a military operation which is why they cannot meet their target in person.

Online Dating Scams – Catfishing

Catfishing is when an individual pretends to be someone they’re not in order to trick another person that they haven’t met into dating them. They often use other people’s photos, videos and personal information to create a fake profile using their fake persona. Online dating scammer photos are generally stolen from attractive people such as models or lesser-known celebrities.

According to the Guardian,

“In a typical scam, the fraudster identifies potential victims through a dating site. He then tailors his personality to suit what the victim is looking for, for example, a man in the army and then finds a picture of someone in the military from the internet, which he will use in his profile. Compliments are usually offered and questions asked of the woman so that the fraudster can ascertain how much money the woman has and whether the scam is worth pursuing. In the vast majority of cases, it is women who are the victims, although there has been the occasional male. Victims are typically women aged from their mid-40s to mid-60s and looking for companionship. Notable among the scammers’ tactics is claiming to be looking for a permanent relationship, not a short-term affair. Their operation can be a large-scale skimming exercise, trying the same fraud on 20 or 30 people at any one time in the hope of securing a victim.”

The main aim of catfishing is to extract either personal details or money from their victim, like in phishing email scams.

“The UK banking industry is warning consumers not to fall victim to romance fraud, after revealing that over a quarter (27%) of dating website users have been scammed by fake personas over the past year.”

In terms of online dating scams statistics, catfishing is a big one,

  • 64% of catfishes are women.
  • 24% pretend to be the opposite gender when creating a fake identity.
  • 73% use photos of someone else, rather than real pictures of themselves.
  • 25% claim a phony occupation when presenting themselves online to a business.
  • 54% of people who engage in online dating feel that the information in potential mate’s profiles is false.
  • 28% of people have been harassed or made to feel uncomfortable by catfishes.
  • 53% of Americans admit to falsifying their online profiles.
  • At least 10% of all online dating profiles are scammers.
  • 51% of people who engage in online dating are already in a relationship.
  • Women lie more about age than men.
  • Men lie about finances more often than women.
  • 40% of men lie about position and salary.
  • 83 million Facebook accounts are assumed fake.

The FBI also warns of online dating scams. According to FBI, romance fraud data from 2018, some of the biggest catfishing states in the United States include:

  • Alaska
  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Nevada
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico
  • Wisconsin
  • California
  • Utah
  • Arizona
  • Wyoming
  • Kansas
  • Florida
  • Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Idaho
  • Maine

There are many tagged online dating scams including Cupid online dating scams, Tinder online dating scams, online military dating scams, Christian online dating scams as well as online dating scams POF.

These are the typical warning signs of online dating scams:

  • Bad grammar and spelling in your communications even though they claim to be from your country
  • Your conversation becomes romantic very quickly
  • They ask for money
  • They avoid speaking to you on the phone of webcam chat
  • They claim to have an illness or seem to be struggling
  • They claim to be stationed overseas
  • They don’t have many friends on Facebook

What to Do if Scammed on Online Dating: How to Avoid Online Dating Scams

#1 Use a Background Check Service

Finding out about your love interests real identity is simple when using an online background check. Companies like BeenVerified and TruthFinder provide you with a fast and easy to use service which will let you know who your love interest really is.

All you need to do is sign up with the service, type in their first and last name and their state. Within minutes you will have a compiled report of information searched from public records. This information includes things like:

  • Full name
  • Maiden name
  • Known aliases
  • Address history with “last seen” date
  • Current address
  • Email addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Social media information
  • Photos
  • Traffic records
  • Criminal record

On top of that, they have custom mobile apps for both iOS and Android devices which means that you can find out information on the go. Customer service representatives are also on hand in case you need help as well. With these, you will be able to perform a reverse phone lookup too.

By far the best solution in finding out if your love is the real deal is by doing a quick online background check. You can even do one on yourself to see what turns up. Other options for background checks include looking up inmatestenant background checks, and employment background checks.

While there are free background checks available online, the best results will come with a paid service like the above two. If you want to know more about background checks and the role of the FCRA you can find out more information here.

#2 Take Things Slowly

You want to take your time getting to know anyone you meet, but this is especially true for the people you meet online. Ask them questions whenever you can to try and learn as much as you can about your potential partner. Be very wary of anyone that wants to commit to a relationship very quickly.

Also, remember to give out limited personal information about yourself, as your sensitive details can be worth a lot on the black market.

“It’s not just guns and drugs that are up for sale on deep web sites. Vendors also list guides on how to commit other illegal activities. The documents are often sold for small amounts of money, but the price barrier, the need to pay with Bitcoin, and the fact that they’re only available on the deep web prevents the guides from being circulated widely.”

#3 Speak to Your Potential Mate Over the Phone

If all you do is chat over messenger, you should ask to speak to them in person over the phone. If your online partner is adamant that they cannot speak to you on the phone, ever, it should definitely raise some red flags.

Similarly, if someone is speaking to you for a number of months and panics at the suggestion of meeting in real life, it is a good sign that your online sweetheart is hiding something. If you have arranged to meet a number of times, but something always comes up last minute on their end, you should be questioning the legitimacy of the relationship.

#4 If it’s Too Good to be True, It Probably is

If you are a man or woman in your fifties, and a potential partner half your age is professing their love to you, it is likely that there is something wrong.

‘Budgyk, 56, doesn’t suffer for a lack of confidence, but he also knows something is amiss when a model half his age just can’t get enough of him. “When some 25-year-old girl is telling you that she’s in love with you, you have to wonder why,” he says. “You see this communication and think, ‘Oh my gosh, I must be more attractive than I thought!’ No, you’re not. Be realistic. If a 25-year-old model is contacting a 50-year-old man, there’s something wrong.”’

#5 Do not Leave the Dating Site

Online dating sites such as Tinder have the ability to monitor as well as suspend users that show problematic behavior or are attempting to perpetrate scams. For this reason, a scammer will want to leave the site as quickly as possible.

‘Beth Kipps, who has experimented with several dating sites, says the men who have attempted to con her almost always have a reason why they shouldn’t continue to communicate via or eHarmony. Most commonly, the excuse is “My membership on this site is almost up. How about if we text or communicate though our personal phone/email?”

Moving off-site before launching a scam reduces the chance that you’ll report the crook to the relevant site. That’s important to the con artist, who’ll want to troll the site again for future victims when done with you. Do your fellow legitimate members a favor and be sure to report abusers.’

 #6 Don’t Fall for the Plea of Desperation

Often times, your new romantic partner will claim to leave for another country or have a medical emergency. Their situation takes a turn for the worst and they turn to you for funds to help in their dire situation.

‘Immediately after Kipps’ date left for Manila, she started getting text messages about the emergency that sent him overseas. He was at the hospital. His daughter had been in an accident, he said. Distraught, he said he left his wallet in the cab. He needed money for a hotel. Could she help?

When she declined, the messages got more desperate. He sent heart-wrenching photos of a young girl, who appeared to be his daughter’s age, hooked to a raft of medical monitors.

Uncertain of whether she should believe the man, Kipps Googled “photos of sick children.” And of course, the photographs she’d been getting via text message were public images posted online. Says Kipps: “What kind of horrible person does something like that?”’

#7 Look Out for Trappings of Wealth

Scammers love to show off all their trappings of wealth including mansions, exotic cars, and images in foreign locations. This is done so as to get your guard down for when they ask you for cash.

‘By fabricating an illusion of their own wealth, scammers may be able to convince you that you’re simply “loaning” them money that, for some weird reason, they can’t immediately access.

Where do the scammers get photos of themselves in these exotic locations and with these costly products? They don’t. They troll other sites and steal other people’s photos.

Budgyk knows this from experience: A Nigerian scammer lifted photos from Budgyk’s profile. He found out when he discovered his photos were on a romance scam site warning about the same Nigerian crook who had stolen his photos.

Morrison says she realizes that photos posted by her one-time suitor were also fakes. She now examines photos of everyone who contacts her to see if she can match them in Google images to a real person. She’s often surprised at what she finds. “One guy stole photos of a male model,” she says.’

Never send out cash to your online love, especially not by wire transfer as you are likely to never hear from them again.

What to do if you Have Been Scammed Online Dating

If you believe you have been scammed and have lost money in the process, chances are pretty low that you’re going to get it back. However, there are a number of steps that you can take in attempting to get it back as well as stopping that person from attempting to do it again.

Attempt to Stop the Transfer. Contact your bank as soon as you can in order to block or reverse the transfer in question. They will help you out every step of the way.

Report the Crime. Check out the online dating scammer list and if the person that tried to scam you isn’t on there you can report them to save the next person. Also, report the problem to the police to heighten the chances of the scammer getting caught. You can report your scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and the FTC Complaint Assistant. The more channels you use, the more likely it is that the scammer will get found out and charged.

Get Counselling. Many people are afraid to speak to their loved ones when involved in an online dating scam due to sheer embarrassment. Speaking to someone can not only help you fix your financial situation but also get over the loss of a loved one, which is what an online scam essentially can be.


When it comes to finding love it is safe to say many of us wear rose-colored glasses, blinded in seeing the warning signs of online dating scams. These scams can not only leave you with a broken heart but also scammed out of your life savings. Even the FBI warns of online dating scams.

When venturing into the online dating world it is important to keep your head in the game, to check the online dating scammer list and look out for the warning signs. Never give out sensitive information, take your budding relationship slowly, and always know what to do if scammed while online dating.