You want to try online dating, but the horror stories you’ve heard have you scared sh#%less. Is every man on these apps insane? Are they all out to take your money? How can you actually find love if there are so many online dating scams out there?
The Truth About Online Dating Scams
While there are benefits to dating websites and apps—you can meet men you wouldn’t otherwise run into in your daily life—proceed with caution. Because it’s easy to “hide” behind a screen, many people (both men and women) find it easy to lie about who they are and their intentions.
You’ve probably heard the term catfish with regards to online dating. Essentially, this is someone who pretends to be someone that he isn’t. He may steal another man’s photos online and create a fictional persona to draw you in.
Why do people catfish? There are many reasons. They may want to get money from you, like the Oakland woman who lost more than a quarter-million dollars of her savings to someone pretending to be a U.S. Marine Corps Major. They may just be lonely and want to engage in a little online romance. They may have been hurt in a past relationship and want to take revenge by hurting someone else.
Whatever the reason (and you’ll likely never know the specific reason if you’re a victim of catfishing), catfishing wastes your valuable time and can break your heart if you start feeling an emotional connection to someone online who isn’t real.
Before you think, “that would never happen to ME,” take a beat. Every woman who has ever been a victim of catfishing thought the same thing. That’s why I want to give you some warning signs for online dating scams so you can spot one early on, before you get hurt.
1. He Works Overseas
No, not every guy on dating apps who says he’s deployed or working overseas is necessarily a catfish, but it’s a definite sign to pay attention to. It’s all too convenient that he’s a thousand miles away because then he can’t meet you in person. He can continue his lies and you are never the wiser.
He may say he’s in the military, working on an oil rig, or just “travels a lot” for his job.
How to figure out if you’re being scammed: If he says he’s in the military, find out where he’s stationed and what he’s doing there. Then Google to see if we even have a military presence in that country. Ask questions.
Some dating apps tell you how far away a match is. Does the number of miles shown match up with where he says he is? He might be in Toledo scamming you, not Dubai.
2. He’s Got Terrible Luck
You’re talking to an incredibly sweet guy, but man, does he have bad luck! First, his car broke down on his way to see his dying mother. Then he got slapped with a ridiculous lawsuit from his ex-wife. You have so much sympathy for him.
Then he asks for a small loan from you. He swears he’ll pay you back in a few weeks. You seriously contemplate it. After all, if this guy is The One, a little loan won’t be a big deal.
Stop right there. Let me remind you that this man is a complete stranger. Forget the fact that he texts as soon as you wake up to see how you’re doing or that he sends kiss emojis that make your toes tingle. If you’ve never met him, you have no idea who he really is. And real men simply don’t ask for loans from women they talk to on dating apps.
Here’s a sobering statistic: last year, Americans lost over $143 million to dating scammers. You remember those Nigerian email scams from a few years ago, right? Well, dating apps are the new target.
How to figure out if you’re being scammed: Don’t send him money. Period. Make up an excuse if you have to about how you can’t afford to help him right now. See if he sticks around after that.
3. He’s Super Passionate About You Quickly
Now, I’m not saying that a man can’t fall head over heels for your amazing self quickly, but if the speed of how things are going romantically is more accelerated than you expected, watch out. This man doesn’t know you. He can’t fall in love with you in days, as much as you’d like to fantasize that it’s possible.
Some women who are the victim of online dating scams feel steamrolled by guys who pour on the charm. Their normal intuitive signals go wonky when they let their hearts take over. If it’s been a while since you were loved, it can feel pretty darn amazing to have a guy gushing about how great you are, and it can be hard to step back and see things for what they really are.
How to figure out if you’re being scammed: Make sure you are open with a friend or two about your communication with this guy. They’ll let you know whether it seems far-fetched or believable. And don’t be stubborn! If they tell you they think he’s full of crap and might be scamming you, LISTEN!
4. He Isn’t a US Citizen (But Wants to Be)
Have you seen the show 90 Day Fiancé? It’s about couples that usually meet online but live in different countries. The American plans to bring the foreigner to the US with a fiancé visa. Some of the couples genuinely seem in love, but with others, it’s pretty clear that someone’s looking for a green card.
This happens on dating apps. I have a friend in San Diego who started talking to a Hispanic man. He quickly reeled her in with his passion and made her feel special…though he canceled every time they scheduled a date to meet. He was a Mexican citizen but was supposedly in the US temporarily (what he said about his temp visa didn’t make much sense to her). One day, she realized that despite his wooing, he hadn’t once asked a question about her.
Oh, and, he didn’t even speak English! He’d been using Google Translate to send messages!
How to figure out if you’re being scammed: It’s probably best to not talk to anyone who lives overseas, especially in countries known to not have great quality of life. Going through the process of getting married to someone in another country (let alone date them long-distance before that) and getting them citizenship status is a pain, and if you then realize that he was using you, you’ll be out thousands of dollars and left with a broken heart.
5. He Never Seems to Be Able to Meet
Whether it’s because he’s out of the country or just superhumanly busy, this man has made every excuse not to meet.
What’s the point in talking if you will never meet?! You’re looking for love, not a pen pal!
How to figure out if you’re being scammed: I say give him the benefit of the doubt once or twice if he has a good excuse, but after that, block him and move on. He has no intention of meeting with you because then you’d find out he’s not who he says he is.
6. He Has Had an Odd Amount of Trauma in His Life
Another warning sign for online dating scams is when a man shares something deeply personal and traumatic with you really early into chatting.
Years ago, I had a client who was chatting with a man online and within the first 10 minutes, he told her that both his parents had been killed in a car crash a few years ago. She hadn’t asked about his family or anything to spur such a confession and it was odd that he shared this personal tragedy so soon.
That, added to the fact that the photos on his profile didn’t seem to be of the same man, and he was never available to meet or even talk on the phone, helped her realize before it was too late that she was being catfished.
How to figure out if you’re being scammed: Sure, we all have trauma and pain in our lives, but ask yourself: is it normal for someone to share such personal and intimate details so early in dating? Does it make you feel uncomfortable?
7. He Texts at Odd Hours
It seems like this man texts you crazy early in the morning or in the middle of the night. Not when you’d expect to hear from him, like after work. This might be a sign that he’s a scammer located in a different country.
How to figure out if you’re being scammed: Flat out ask him why he texts when he does or tell him you’d love to hear from him between the hours of 5 pm and 9 so you can text (or even talk on the phone) in real-time. If he has some weird excuse, he’s probably catfishing you from another time zone.
8. He’s Inconsistent in What He Says
A week ago, he said his sister lived in Baltimore. Today, he said she lived down the road. WTF?
It’s hard for an online dating scam predator to keep his lies straight. You never know: he might be scamming multiple women at the same time and trying to keep his stories straight…but failing.
How to figure out if you’re being scammed: Take notes on things he tells you, then ask about them a few weeks later to see if he tells the same story. If he doesn’t, you know he’s not being honest with you.
I know a woman who was talking to a man who said he was from Puerto Rico. He said one of his profile photos was taken on the roof of his apartment. When she got suspicious about him, she Google searched the image…and found many people standing in the same place…in Hawaii! He had stolen the photo from someone online.
9. He Avoids Answering Questions About Himself
I mean, everyone likes talking about themselves, but if every conversation centers around you because he’s only asking questions—not answering them—then something’s fishy.
The point of texting before you meet someone is to get to know them at least a little and to see if you’re compatible. How can you do that if he’s not telling you anything about his past, his interests, and his social life?
How to figure out if you’re being scammed: Keep asking questions. Point out the fact that he never answers any of them and see what excuse he has. Some men genuinely don’t like talking about themselves, but if he smoothly defers back to you every single time you ask him about himself, that’s not right.
10. He’s Too Good to Be True
Frankly, you’re a little amazed that this gorgeous man with a hot body matched with you. You’re worried he’s a little out of your league, and yet here he is, saying sweet things…almost too sweet. It’s like he’s taken a page out of a rom-com movie and is feeding you lines.
I mean, what’s not to believe about the fact that he’s a firefighter with a Master’s degree in physics who adopts stray kittens and volunteers to teach kids to read?
How to figure out if you’re being scammed: Google him. You should be able to, at the very least, see if he holds the job he says he does by looking him up on LinkedIn. But you might find other interesting facts, like photos with his current wife and six kids he forgot to mention.
11. His Dating Profile Isn’t Verified
More and more dating apps are including verification features, meaning that users have to take measures to prove that they’re real. Sometimes it just requires taking a selfie doing some specific action so computers can match you up to your uploaded images. Bumble actually has a feature where you can request a match to Photo Verify, which is pretty handy.
But other sites don’t require it, and that’s where you have to worry about being scammed.
How to figure out if you’re being scammed: Stick to dating sites that use Facebook login or photos to verify users. If you have any suspicion that a man isn’t who he says he is, stop talking to him and report him on the site.
12. He Has No Online Footprint
Okay, so some people aren’t obsessed with social media or otherwise found online. But if there are already things that are making your intuition twitch, search for this guy online.
How to figure out if you’re being scammed: If you don’t find any matches that seem to be him in a Google search for his name, do a reverse image search his photos to see if his images might appear on someone else’s social media profiles.
Here’s another online dating scam story: a woman was talking to a man who said he was Italian. But after some suspicions, she did an image search and found the same photos for a guy on Facebook…who lived in Idaho and didn’t speak a lick of Italian!
What to Do if You Think You’re the Victim of an Online Dating Scam
I sincerely hope you are never the victim of an online dating scam, but if your Spidey senses start tingling, take these measures to ensure you don’t get hurt.
NEVER Send Him Money
We’ve covered why this is a bad idea. You wouldn’t respond to a Nigerian email scam with your bank account number, so why would you Paypal a complete stranger money?
Ask Lots of Questions
This can reveal inconsistencies in his stories or give you more clues to research to determine whether he’s real or not.
Report it to the FTC
Dating scams have become so prevalent that the Federal Trade Commission has gotten involved. You can file a report, which hopefully will shut that scammer down.
Insist on Meeting
This will usually result in an excuse, so you’ll be more clear that this guy isn’t for real.
Report Him on the App
Every dating app has an option to report a user for inappropriate behavior. If you are SURE that this man is a catfish, report him so the site will block him from doing further damage.
Don’t Give Him Your Phone Number
Scammers are usually quick to ask for your phone number when you’re chatting with them inside the dating app. If you have any hesitation, don’t give him your number. Tell him you’re more comfortable chatting in the app (where, if you end up reporting him, there’s evidence of his catfishing).
Trust Your Gut
Above all, listen to your instinct if something feels off. I think you have to go into online dating with a healthy dose of skepticism because there are so many people who will lie and manipulate. Don’t be naive if a man seems too good to be true. He might be.
At the same time, don’t assume that everyone on dating apps is a criminal! There are still plenty of good guys out there. Just take your time getting to know them and don’t rush into anything.
I wish online dating scams weren’t a thing, but it’s a fact that they are, so I want you to be prepared in case you ever encounter one. Keep your guard up until you meet a man in person and don’t be shy about expressing concern over something inconsistent that he’s said. He may even act offended that you could think he was a liar, but a genuine man will understand that you’re just trying to protect yourself.
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