Don’t Be Hooked by These 13 Dating Scams

Think you’ve been caught in a net of catfishing scam? We’ll show you how to avoid getting hooked in this article about the most common dating scams.
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Online dating scams happen when criminals and con artists create fake online identities to gain your trust and affection. Once that’s established, the scammers use this romantic illusion to manipulate and steal from you. No matter what the reasons are for using dating apps, anyone can be at risk of getting scammed.

However, there are ways to use these dating apps without getting scammed. We’ll cover the most common scams and how they work so that you can avoid becoming a con artist’s next victim, as well as how the best identity theft protection can keep your digital data safe and secure.

In this article
How do online dating scams work?
13 common online dating scams
1. Overseas romance scams
2. Financial fraud
3. Two-factor authentication scams
4. Catfishing
5. Phishing scams
6. Sextortion
7. Fake dating sites
8. Malware scams
9. Money mule recruitment
10. Inheritance scams
11. Photo scams
12. Cryptocurrency investment scams
13. Tinder phone number scam
Online dating scam red flags
Six tips to be cautious while online dating
Online dating scam FAQs
Bottom line

How do online dating scams work?

Online dating scams work because the criminals who carry them out are experts who practice their craft frequently. Their intention is to connect with you and establish an online relationship fast by appearing genuine and endearing.

These criminals create fake profiles and may use photos that they find online to convince you of their appearance. They also use social engineering to manipulate you into divulging personal information.

Online dating scams target 55- to 64-year-olds more than any other age range. In 2020, older adults lost almost $139 million to dating scams.

13 common online dating scams

There are many online dating scams, but we’ll cover the most common ones. If you think something like this can’t happen to you, keep in mind that these scam artists are masters of swindling people out of money. After checking out these 13 romance scams, you’ll ensure you are staying safe online when using a dating app.

1. Overseas romance scams

One sign of trouble is that your romantic interest seems to live far away. The scammer may claim to be stationed overseas for work. This tactic conveniently allows for no in-person meetings. You may text or email, but that’s usually the extent of the communication.

An out-of-the-country romance is one of the pitfalls you may run into on dating websites like OkCupid and Bumble. Most of these sites encourage you to report users who don’t follow community guidelines. OkCupid scams and Bumble scams are not uncommon, so the companies take them seriously.

2. Financial fraud

The people behind the fake dating profiles think nothing of taking your money and disappearing. Some scammers may ask for a wire transfer so they can get the money sooner, but they also know those are hard, if not impossible, to trace.

If your online suitor asks you for money before you even meet, that’s a red flag for a dating scam. The romance scammer may ask you to send money for various reasons, like travel expenses or sudden medical emergencies. You’ll get a good sob story that may tug at your heartstrings, but beware of these online dating scams.

3. Two-factor authentication scams

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security measure that gives an extra layer of protection online. Scammers are now using dating sites to trick you into giving them your codes. The person will start a relationship with you and then complain that one of their accounts isn’t working. They’ll ask if they can send their 2FA code to you. Once you let them know the code, you’re actually providing them access to your accounts. To prevent identity theft, never share a 2FA code with anyone else.

For extra security, use a password manager: 

NordPass is a secure password manager that bypasses two-factor authentication for multi-factor authentication and biometric verification. This password manager has all the bells and whistles, including password sharing, password generator, auto-fill, password health report, digital legacy, and notably above-average encryption, XChaCha20. 

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4. Catfishing

Catfishing is when someone takes information and pictures from other people and uses them to create a fake identity. The swindler will use that identity to trick you into communicating with them.

The dangers of catfishing can be more than financial loss. Many victims end up feeling betrayed, which can cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns.

5. Phishing scams

With these scams, the romantic interest will gain your trust, then try to get your personal information. That could include anything from passwords to banking details. They may also send you a link to another app or service they claim to want you to try out. This can often be a ploy to get you to download malware or provide them with your financial data.

6. Sextortion

Sextortion is when a scammer blackmails you by threatening to share videos, images, or other information about your sexual preferences unless you pay money or engage in sexual activity. A common technique of the criminal is threatening to share your sexual content with your family members or friends.

Similar to sextortion, online romance scammers may use doxxing to get you to comply with their demands. Doxxing is where someone publicizes your personal information online. 

One way to prevent a doxxer from obtaining your personal info is to never share your phone number, address, or email with someone you've just met. Another way is to scrub the internet clean of your personal data with a service like Incogni.

7. Fake dating sites

When looking for romance online, you should beware of fake online dating sites like Dateyou.com. These sites will charge you for messages, but you’ll never meet the person behind the sweet words.

Under the terms section of the site, it even expresses the use of animators and operators for your entertainment. It goes on to let you know that real meetings are not possible with these operators. If you read closely, the wording shows that this is likely a scam.

8. Malware scams

These scams typically include links or attachments that take you to another website that contains malware. You’ll get a virus or other malware installed on your device.

With this online romance scam, your match may exchange several messages with you, then offer more information on their personal page or a fake social media profile page. The goal of this online dating scam is to steal your personal data. These fraudsters get you to trust them and relay more of your information.

9. Money mule recruitment

A money mule is a recruit who helps launder money online. As a mule, you’ll add a layer of distance between the criminals and the victims. Often with online dating scams, participants are unaware they’re helping criminals.

If you get asked to receive money and then forward the funds to others, that’s a red flag. You should never accept money from someone you don’t know, and you shouldn’t send money to strangers.

10. Inheritance scams

With an inheritance scam, your love interest may tell you that you can claim part of an inheritance, but you must give your bank account or credit card information in return. The scammer may claim to need some money for administrative fees, which may not sound like an extravagant amount. Once the criminal gets your financial information, you could lose everything in your account.

11. Photo scams

One of the dangers of catfishing is the use of photo scams. You may get a match on the dating site and think you’ve met your soulmate. The photos will make you feel the person on the other end of the email is legitimate by sending you pictures.

These scam artists steal photos they find online. Some will even use photos with children to appear to be family-oriented. Sometimes these scammers will photoshop their faces onto another picture. You may get pictures of professionals, like doctors, to show more credibility.

There are also scams where the con artist will entice you to give up personal detail in exchange for an intimate photo. That can often lead to financial fraud once you’ve revealed enough information.

12. Cryptocurrency investment scams

This online dating scam uses flattery to make you feel good before you get conned. The scammers may spend weeks or months grooming you before they bring up cryptocurrency investment. They’ll tell you about all the potential it brings. Again, they use social engineering to target victims. Before long, you may be investing your money into coins controlled by con artists. Once they get your money, they’ll disappear and leave you with worthless tokens.

13. Tinder phone number scam

A Tinder phone number scam happens when the person you’ve met on Tinder asks you to make a call or text a specific number. You’ll also be asked for your phone number. You may be told it is urgent to get you to call soon.

Once you give in and make the call, the scammer has your number and can use it to steal your information and sell it for other scams. You may even be subscribed to ads and adult websites. Sometimes the person will pretend to be in distress and claim to need money for something crucial, like rent.

Online dating scam red flags

Is it possible to find love online? Sure, as long as you take some precautions along the way. If you’re dealing with an online dating scam, you’ll notice these warning signs at some point. When you see any of them, you should cut off any communication because you’re likely dealing with a swindler. Here are some red flags to look out for when using an online dating app:

  • Requests for money
  • Relationship moving too quickly
  • Never meeting in person
  • Only messaging or talking over the phone, never over video chat

Six tips to be cautious while online dating

  1. Reverse image searches: If you’re concerned that someone is trying to use a catfishing scam, you can use a reverse image search to see who a profile picture may truly belong to.
  2. Keep personal information confidential: An online dating match doesn’t need to know your banking details, Social Security number or other data. During the early stages, you should be cautious and not reveal too much too soon.
  3. Use safe dating verification sites: These sites will verify that the people using dating apps are representing themselves. If you use this, don’t send money because that could be another online dating scam technique. Genuine dating verification will ask for identity documents and money only if you upgrade your account.
  4. Report online dating scams to law enforcement: If you’ve been scammed or suspect an online dating scam, report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, (IC3).
  5. Ask lots of questions: Don’t be rushed by an online match. Ask lots of questions and get to know the person slowly.
  6. Listen to your gut: If someone seems too good to be true you may have met a scammer, not a potential love interest.

How can identity theft protection help with romance scams?

Dating scams are scary for a number of reasons, one of which is the chance someone could get close to you and try to steal your identity or hack into your bank account. Thankfully, you can protect your personal info and private accounts before you even sign up for a dating app. The best identity theft protection services monitor your bank accounts, credit cards, and even social media and the dark web to ensure your personal info isn't being used by someone else.

  • Norton LifeLock: With up to $3 million in identity theft insurance, LifeLock is here to not only prevent someone from stealing your identity but also to lend a helping hand in case it ever does happen to you. LifeLock monitors your phone number and bank account to ensure you and only you have access, and it also monitors the dark web for your personal data.

    See LifeLock Plans | Read Our Norton LifeLock Review
  • Aura: If you want a combo of digital security and identity protection, Aura is a top choice. Using AI to combat spam calls and texts, this service also monitors data breaches for your info, offers a Safe Gaming feature to keep your kids safe online, and checks for malware, Social Security number theft, and online account takeovers.

    See Aura Plans | Read Our Aura Review
  • Bitdefender: Another way to pair malware protection with identity services is with Bitdefender. Its Digital Identity Protection plan protects you from scam calls and phishing emails and also emails data brokers on your behalf to get your data removed from their sites.

    See Bitdefender Plans | Read Our Bitdefender Antivirus Review

Online dating scam FAQs


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What are the signs of an online dating scammer?

The main signs of an online dating scammer will include rushing you into a relationship, asking for sensitive information, and sending you a link to another website.


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How do you spot a fake dating profile?

You can spot a fake dating profile by noticing one that is too good to be true, has limited photos, is too flirtatious at first, and seems automated in conversations.


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Will a romance scammer video call you?

While all dating sites may contain fake profiles, it’s rare that a scammer will call you via video. The entire purpose of the scam is to trick you into believing you’re communicating with a romantic interest, not someone who is the opposite of a love connection and only wants to get your data to steal your money.

Bottom line

Although online dating scams are prevalent, you can still enjoy these sites and meet some great people. Being able to recognize the red flags — such as requests for money, being sent links to other websites, and attempts to get your personal information too soon — will help you have a safer online experience.

Online dating is a popular way to meet people with the same interests as you. Using caution will help ensure you aren’t the victim of a catfishing scam. We also suggest using at least basic identity theft protection to help monitor your online accounts and block phishing attempts — some of the best ID theft protection services also help you recover if you're a victim of identity theft or fraud.

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Author Details
Patti Croft is a seasoned writer who specializes in all things technology. She holds a B.S. in Computer Science and carries a wealth of hands-on experience thanks to her background as a technical analyst and security specialist.