We can all take a collective moment to thank the digital era for normalizing online dating, but even though we can now search for romantic opportunities and partners online without feeling the scorn of scrutiny, we have a new danger to watch out for: scams. If you’re a Tinder user, then it’s necessary to keep your wits about you and watch out for people and personalities that might be trying to take advantage of you. This definitely isn’t the majority of the online dating scene–you’ll be safe on most of it–but before the next time that you decide to swipe right, give this little guide a read-through, and make sure you’re not being scammed.
Human beings are vulnerable creatures by nature. We thrive on our emotions and are often guided by them before any amount of logic. We like to feel passionate, and we’re somehow fueled by swelling extremes of happiness or sorrow. Each of us is a hot mess of love and trust and hate and chagrin and joy, and there’s no real way to sort through it all without professional help and reflection.
We’re not here to do either of those things, today. Instead, we’re here to talk about Tinder and the proliferation of attempts to scam people by using the vulnerabilities mentioned above. We’re at the greatest risk at our most emotional, and dating websites are an open invitation to bring emotions to the table.
So, what is all of this “scamming” about? If it sounds like a fairly broad term, that’s because it truly is. When people talk about being scammed online, the term is usually used as an umbrella word for being tricked into something they didn’t agree to. We often assume that it has to do with some loss of monetary assets, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.
It can be emotional exploitation, too.
But once again, our goal here isn’t to break down definitions. Rather than illuminate an issue that you can suss out well enough with a simple Google search, we’re going to give you a few steps that you can easily perform when you suspect that you’re being “scammed” on Tinder. You’re only too cautious once you become paranoid, but before you reach that point, you’re just being safe. Thankfully, many of the people and groups running Tinder scams carry out their nonsense in a relatively similar fashion, which is going to help you to nail it down and back away from it before they hook you.
How Tinder Scams Work
Scammers on Tinder are forced to go through specific avenues in order to pull off their malicious magic, and this is 100% thanks to intricate ties between Tinder and Facebook. No, really. We should actually be thankful because it makes scammers easier to detect. If Facebook wasn’t required in order to gain access to Tinder, you’d have a hell of a time isolating these efforts and getting away from them.
Before you can use Tinder, you need a Facebook profile. While some users may get hung up on the way that Tinder builds your profile based on your Facebook profile information, it also provides a level of verification for anyone trying to access the matchmaking service. You have to have a profile, and without it, you’re simply not going to be able to browse Tinder.
Scamming usually happens one of two ways–through an individual, or through an automated bot program that’s been coded to acquire your information. Before you put on that incredulous expression, let me tell you that yes, people do give away their private and personal information to bots all of the time. Credit cards, bank accounts, phone numbers, home addresses…you’d be surprised at how easily some people will part with information that can wreck them when it gets into the wrong hands. Don’t be one of those people.
This process, often known as “catfishing,” always involves the use of a fake profile and falsified identity. If a person uses a genuine profile in an attempt to scam you…they really need to learn a thing or two about illegal activity. The vast, vast majority of the time, scam attempts will come from a fake profile.
If the fake profile belongs to an individual, it’s probably going to be one of the most convincing scams that you encounter. It will also be the least malicious because the person behind the attempt is probably just trying to mess with you. Maybe they want to goad you into frustration. Maybe they want some sort of intimate, text-based shenanigans. Overall, they definitely don’t want to reveal their actual identity, but it’s rare that an individual scammer will try to talk you out of money.
When a bot tries to scam you, the signs are usually a little more telling. Bots are auto-responding sets of code, meaning that they have a pre-programmed set of messages that they’re able to send you, and are prompted into certain messages based on what you say to them. It sounds simple, but very good catfishers have written some pretty effective bot codes that, without scrutiny, can manage to sound like actual people.
Am I Being Scammed?
Finding out if you’re actually being scammed isn’t always a simple process, but you can reliably go about it the same way whenever you suspect that it’s happening. The key to your search, as you might already suspect, is Facebook.
See, even if you’re dealing with an actual person who’s trying to scam you–rather than just a bot–their Facebook profile is almost guaranteed to be fake, and spotting a fake Facebook profile can be pretty easy once you know what to look for. Certain elements of fake profiles always manage to stand out like a sore thumb, and beyond those usually obvious things, you can nearly always tell when someone is trying to get something from you by the tone they take in their messages.
The first thing to look at is the profile pictures of the scammer. There are a few obvious tells that you can key in on, and one or more of them usually marks a scammer as a dead giveaway.
- The profile picture is of especially low (or pixelated quality)
- A celebrity is used as the profile picture
- A stock photograph is used as the profile picture
You can look at those qualifiers and think, “Wow, would a scammer really be that dumb?” Fortunately for us, the answer is yes, but they aren’t always. Sometimes, you’ll need to identify them through the messages that they’re sending you. Thankfully, this isn’t too difficult, either.
A scam is a scam because a separate person or party wants something from you. It’s malicious because that something probably falls under the category of “things you should not be revealing on Tinder.” Financial information. Personal contact information. Things like that.
If a scammer outright asks you for money or anything finance-related, shut the person down immediately. For starters, you don’t want to entangle yourself with someone that’s willing to cop money from you on a matchmaking service. Secondly, they’re almost definitely trying to scam you.
Many bots try to successfully “phish” information from you by warming you up, before asking for anything at all. They do so through generic questions and, more often than not, poorly strung together sentences. Since bots are designed to provide automated responses to simple questions, trying throwing out a question or message that’s phrased in a complex way. If the answer you get doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (or doesn’t look like something that an actual person would write), then it’s probably a bot.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, never click on links. One of the quickest ways that you can get scammed on Tinder isn’t by manually providing your personal information, but through clicking on links that take you to external websites. All kinds of bad things can happen when you do this, but most frequently, bots will point you towards malicious websites that can install keyloggers and other malware on your computer. Even if you didn’t outwardly reveal anything to them, it’s still “mission accomplished” as far as a bot is concerned.
Can I Avoid Scammers?
Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to 100% dodge the Tinder scam scene. If you’re on Tinder frequently, there’s always going to be the risk that it can happen to you, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll always be at risk of falling victim to it. Follow the above advice and guidelines, and you should be able to keep yourself safe.
What you can do, instead, is to help to promote a better Tinder community. When you encounter a scammer (or someone that you highly suspect of being a scammer) don’t hesitate to report that user for fraudulent activity. If you’re being targeted by a bot or a scammer, just tap the corner of their profile and select Report Username. This will let you flag the profile for Tinder’s moderators. If a profile accumulates enough flags, it will warrant an investigation, and more than likely get the profile banned from the service.
Since there’s no surefire way to avoid scams on Tinder, the best that you can do is beware and be safe. Never hesitate to trust your instinct when you’re confronted with fishy activity, and if a warning bell sounds in the back of your mind, back away and swipe left.