When you’re looking for a love match online, the last thing you want to worry about is whether the person is a scammer. Even on reputable dating sites, scammers abound. You could find yourself mixed up in a Tinder phone number scam, a victim of a blackmail or malware scam or even catfished out of large sums of cash.
“Online scams are everywhere,” said Tim Fisher, the senior vice president and general manager of Lifewire.com, a technology website that teaches people how to use social media and tech devices. “Anytime you’re interacting online with people you haven’t physically met, you are at risk.
Understanding what phishing, vishing and other types of online, texting and phone scams look like may help you quickly spot scammers and keep them out of your love life.
Top scams using Tinder
Tinder is one of the most popular online dating sites, which makes it one of the biggest playgrounds for scammers. They look for lonely hearts willing to share dreams, hopes and potentially cash or sensitive information that can be used to empty bank accounts.
Here’s a look at the top seven scams Tinder users have reported to BeenVerified’s Spam Call Complaint Monitor.
1. Tinder bots/fake profile scam
One of the most prolific Tinder scams doesn’t even involve humans. Fake profiles and bots are automated software that imitate humans and are designed to fool your brain into thinking you matched with a real person.
“If you’ve ever thought, ‘Wow, this person types incredibly fast’,” said Fisher, “you’ve probably just matched with a bot, which gives almost instantaneous, scripted small-talk responses to your messages.”
To try and spot these fakes and bots, take a few minutes to conduct a reality check:
- Do you have any friends in common with this match?
- Do you have more than just generic interests in common?
- Are they asking you to use a different link to communicate further with them?
Asking a few simple questions may quickly uncover a bot. Humans, for instance, can answer, “Where did you go to school?” or “guess what year I was born?” If a more detailed question gets more generic responses, you may be talking to a robot.
If your match doesn’t seem to make sensible responses, beware.
2. Catfishing on Tinder
If a human is actually on the other side of your match, it’s not always easy to confirm if they are using fake photos and detailed information to trick you into thinking they are someone they are not.
This is a scam called catfishing. Their profiles are usually quite interesting, with jobs, friends and supporting content designed to fool you. They will also engage in lots of written conversations with you.
The goal, however, is to lull you into a false sense of security about the relationship. Key red flag: Catfishers avoid video chat or meeting in person. A video chat would instantly expose the fake images on their profile, giving away the entire scam.
Tinder is trying to put a stop to catfishing activity through the use of ID verification. It’s a voluntary program, however, which means a scammer could find a way to beat the verification system or simply not participate in it. In rare cases, you might find that someone is using your name, image and information to catfish an unsuspecting Tinder user. If someone is impersonating you, report them to Tinder immediately.
Using a people finder tool may also be a good way to try and ascertain if the people you are communicating with are legitimate or not.
3. Tinder scams to steal your phone number
Stick with video chats until you can confirm everything is on the up-and-up, Fisher said. Sharing your phone number could open the door to fraud.
“It might seem harmless to hand out your phone number,” Fisher said, “but once you do, a scammer can sell it, use it to try and access your personal accounts or even actually steal your number from your phone carrier.
“Think about your bank and how it uses two-factor authentication security to confirm your identity when you’re trying to get into your accounts. Once a scammer has your phone number and full name, a few good guesses about passwords and banks based on seemingly innocent messages with you lets them narrow down where your accounts are and access them.”
To try and avoid Tinder phone number scams, think of your phone number as a very personal detail you only give to friends and family. Don’t text with a Tinder match until you’ve met in person and can confirm who the person is. All messaging can and should be done through the app, including video calls.
4. Tinder phishing scams
Phishing is an email scam that appears to be a message from someone you know and trust. It can sometimes look like a legitimate business is sending you the message. Or it might look like the sender has some sort of connection with you because the message includes some personal information.
The scam ultimately involves asking you to open a link or an attachment, which then downloads malware to your computer or takes you to a fake website to obtain sensitive information from you. The end goal is always to steal money, whether you have a lot or a little.
You can try to spot phishing scams on Tinder by checking the details:
- Does the message use incorrect grammar?
- Does the message indicate you must act quickly, using included links or attachments?
- Does the message seem generic and not personalized to you?
Scammers often use the same wording to message hundreds or thousands of other Tinder victims, hoping that at least a few don’t notice the strange wording of the email or anything else that seems off.
5. Tinder blackmail scam
Blackmail scams on Tinder work just like they do on any other medium: The scammer works hard to obtain your trust and then uses some sort of image or personal information that compromises your integrity.
Scammers know that vulnerable, lonely people seeking companionship are sometimes willing to forget basic internet safety procedures so they will work hard to gain your trust romantically, then lean in with the inevitable “next step” of requesting sexting images.
“Be wary of anyone that asks for nude images,” Fisher said. “While it might seem romantic in the moment—and they might even send you a nude first—the second you send out your own image, you’ve now lost control of it. From there, a scammer will use it to threaten to expose you online, contact family and employers or take other frightening steps. In the end, all they want is money and they might not stop asking for it.”
Called sextortion by the FBI, this type of blackmail scheme preys on the share, fear and confusion victims feel. To try and avoid it, simply follow the most basic internet safety tactic: Never send nudes to anyone.
6. Tinder verification code scam
You’ve probably received a message from an app to send a verification code to your phone or email to confirm you are indeed the person requesting the information. Tinder scammers, of course, have wiggled a way around this verification system by attempting to use matches as conduits for access codes.
Here’s how it works: You’re enjoying a new match and getting to know the other person through some in-depth conversations. Then you receive a message something like “Hey, I’m having trouble receiving verification codes on my phone. Can I use your phone number for a second? Just shoot me the code when you get it.”
Stop right there. What you’re not told is that your new friend has requested access to one of your accounts, like Tinder or even a bank account. By telling the person the code that shows up on your phone, you’ve now opened the floodgates for the scammer to potentially obtain passwords, financial account numbers, your social security number and other personal details.
Avoiding this scam is as simple as never giving out your phone number in the first place. But if you do, remember that no one should ever be using your phone number to receive information of any kind. You most definitely should not be sharing any codes you receive. If anyone claims a problem with receiving texts and codes on their phone, send them to their phone carrier to get the issue resolved.
7. Tinder malware scam
One of the most important things you can do to stay safe on Tinder, Fisher said, is to keep conversation on the Tinder app until you can confirm identities and meet in person.
“Scammers will frequently try to steer you to other sites to continue chatting,” Fisher said. “But those other sites often are completely bogus.
“The second you click a link that you’ve been sent, you could be unknowingly downloading software to your phone or computer that is designed to find and steal your personal data. Remember, a scammer wants your money, period. If someone is insisting they can no longer talk to you on Tinder, that’s your clue that they want something more from you than good conversation or a true love match.”
Malware scams work by luring victims to click carefully prepared links or open unsafe attachments designed to steal information and, ultimately, money. Follow your gut: If a request to go somewhere beyond Tinder pops up, that’s probably your clue to move on to a new match.
The old adage, “if it seems too good to be true, it is,” is a smart one to keep in mind. Stay vigilant online. Reserve your trust for situations where you can confirm identities in person, and never, ever click links or attachments a match sends you. A few seconds of careful thought can help you avoid months or years of financial or other personal damage.