A college student’s guide to dating app scams

Ben Osborne 4 Sep 2023

Almost everyone meets online these days--and scammers know it. Here's how to tell what's a scam and what could be true love.

For all the conveniences they provide, dating apps can be a headache. Not only do you have to worry about coming up with the perfect opener or who to use your super likes on, but these days there’s also the added threat of scammers stealing your personal information or tricking you into giving out financial details. 

To help you swipe safely and avoid these perpetrators, we’ve collected five of the most common scams you’re likely to encounter—and the red flags—that let you know it’s time to put down the phone and go outside.

  1.  Catfishing

What it is: Probably one of the most well-known cons out there, catfishing is when a person on the internet pretends to be someone they’re not. This allows them to engage in all sorts of social engineering tactics to take advantage of their victim. 

How to avoid it: 

  • Most apps offer users the ability to verify their identity by sending additional photos of themselves to the platform holder or by connecting a .edu email to verify their school. In turn, the best way to avoid catfish is by only associating with verified profiles. 
  • Another easy way to check if you’re talking with a catfish is to ask questions and see if the details check out. For example, you could verify that someone attends the same school as you by asking what dorm they live in or what professors they have. 
  • These days, AI generated photos are also a concern. Most AI models have gotten pretty good at replicating faces, so your best bets are to look for indicators like hands with weird looking fingers, irregular asymmetry in the clothes (like sleeves being different lengths), or garbled text.

2. Advanced fee fraud

What it is: Advanced Fee Fraud happens when someone matches with you, says they need money to advance the relationship (for a car to meet you, a new outfit for a date, etc.), then never follows up. 

How to avoid it: 

  • As a good rule of thumb, never send money to anyone on the internet, especially people you don’t know personally. 
  • Con artists don’t stop at just asking for money. Sometimes they’ll ask for crypto or gift cards, so don’t let that throw you off! 

3. Extortion 

What is it: Extortion can happen when cybercriminals get their hands on sensitive data and use it to blackmail victims.  

How to avoid it: 

  • The most effective approach to safeguarding yourself from extortion is to refrain from including any personally identifiable information on your profile. If perpetrators can’t identify you past your first name, they won’t have any leverage if they try to exploit you. 

4. Fake websites 

What is it: Fake websites are created by scammers to trick unsuspecting users into sharing their personal information or financial details. These websites may imitate popular dating apps or platforms, leading users to believe they are on a legitimate site. 

How to avoid it:  

  • Always double-check a website's URL or domain to ensure it matches the official website of the dating app or platform you are using. 
  • Be cautious of websites that ask for unnecessary personal information or payment details upfront. These days, nearly all dating apps are freemium (meaning it’s free to start), so be wary if you encounter a paywall while signing up. 
  • Install reliable antivirus and anti-malware software on your devices to detect and block fake websites.  

People have been using online dating platforms to scam others as long as they've existed. However, as technology has advanced, so too have the tactics employed by these scammers. To ensure your safety and protect yourself from falling victim to their schemes, the best thing you can do is to remain vigilant and informed.  

Now that you know the red flags to watch out for, trust your instincts and always remember to be cautious when sharing personal information or engaging in financial transactions with individuals you meet online. 

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