Online Dating Scams: How to Tell If You Are Being Baited
It’s easy for some of the smartest people to lose all sight of common
sense when they're being reeled in by a catfish: an online imposter who
tries to win your sympathy — and your love — by creating an elaborate
scheme. Award-winning technology reporter Kurt Knutsson, known around
the country as Kurt the CyberGuy, shares his top ten reality checks to
see if you’re being baited by a catfish.
If you identify with at least two of the below scenarios, Knutsson says you could be falling prey to a scam artist.
1. Dumb Date Data
Physical descriptions need to be proportional. For example, someone
who is 6-feet tall usually does not weigh 90 lbs. Look for any other
descriptions that don’t add up to the profile photo.
Tip: Ask them to take a photo holding a unique phrase or
their own name on it and send it to you. Ask to have a live video talk
using Skype or Facetime. Most of today’s smartphones, tablets and
laptops come equipped with a built-in camera and/or video. Someone
reluctant to speak on live video, claiming shyness or that they can’t
find a camera, should be a red flag.
2. Profile Picture Test
Professional photos are a red flag. Look for amateur photos — and more than one.
Tip: Use a Google Goggles
search on your phone to see if the photo they’ve shared with you can be
spotted elsewhere online. If you see it shown with a watermark or in
other settings like modeling websites, it’s likely a fake.
3. Become a Photo Detective
“This just takes it to the next level,” Knutsson says.
Look for detail in photos — wedding rings, locations, activities, time
of day, how they are dressed — to see if it matches. Someone claiming
that a photo is from a July 4th fireworks party, who is dressed in a fur
coat, in daylight, might be a dead giveaway that someone is lying.
4. Cut and Paste Profile Alert
Introductory letters on dating websites are often copied by
catfish scammers. See if the same information appears in other places or
has been copied from someone else by searching for it online.
Out-of-country scams often slip up here, revealing inconsistent
information such as landmarks and cultural events that don’t add up. For
example, someone claiming to be from St. Louis who isn’t familiar with
the iconic Gateway Arch when questioned is likely a liar.
5. Spelling and Grammar Fail
Hear the words when you read their writing, and check their
spelling and grammar. A line that sounds like it could be from someone
in a far-off country but portraying themselves to be in your same city
will usually have a local dialect misfire.
6. Derailing You from the Dating Site
Red flags should be raised if, right off the bat, they want to
get you to instant message or email, taking you off of the dating site
where you originally met.
Tip: Always create and use a unique email address that is
different than your personal and professional addresses when setting up
a dating website profile.
7. Too Serious, Too Soon Watch out for someone rushing
things. A catfish usually makes the first move, often out of left field
and sometimes creates a bogus, dreamy profile that sounds like the
ideal mate you’ve described in your
own dating desires. They play on your sympathy and strike when you are
the most vulnerable — caught up in the romance and emotional.
8. Ask a Lot of Questions Inquire about where they are
from, and verify landmarks and spellings of cities online. Blatant
errors could mean it’s a scam. Catfishers like to ask you a lot of
questions, but seldom let you go deep into their lives, coming up with
excuses about why they are reluctant to offer more personal information
about themselves. For example, they might say, “I’ve been hurt before by
telling too much too soon,” which actually turns the tables on you to
prove that you can be trusted — Red flag!
9. You Are Not an ATM Machine
If they ask for money, lock them out of your life. Shut off
communication immediately, and close all open doors if you have a hint
that it is a sympathy scam. Although most catfishers are not after
money, this one should be a wake-up call to a scam.
10. Facebook Fakers
At this point, if someone has no Facebook page, but they are sophisticated enough to create an online dating profile, be warned.
Also look out for potential fake Facebook pages.
Signs of a fake
Facebook profile can include the fact that the Facebook page was started
near the same time that a dating profile elsewhere was established, if
few photos are posted, or if there are no people tagged in their photos
to show a connection in a relationship.
If they are on Twitter, read through historic tweets to see if the story
they tell matches up to the same the person you are prospectively
dating. Like Facebook, Twitter accounts created around the
same time as dating profiles should be treated with caution.