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Dating Experts Reveal How They Spot Fake Dating Profiles

Our team of seasoned dating specialists logs on to all the most popular dating apps daily to swipe and message on behalf of the hundreds of clients we represent online. Spotting fake profiles is part of the job!

In this short guide, we’ll break down the biggest red flags we watch for to help you avoid scammers, bots, and other bad actors as you swipe.

Since dating apps are all about the photos, let’s start there!

#1 - There’s Only One Photo

It pays to be cautious when you come across a profile with a single photo. Especially if that photo is of someone highly attractive and dressed provocatively. This is a page straight out of the old-school scammers playbook.

#2 - The Photos Seem Too Good To Be True  

Scammers often source their material from Google or stock photo websites, and these days they’re getting even savvier. Photos are often stolen from social media, which allows them to gather enough for a full lineup. 

Since you’re looking at real photos, these can be harder to spot as fakes. Doing a reverse image search in Google and using Lens to find the image source can reveal where they were stolen from.

Here’s an example of a fake POF profile that used an image of Romain Virgo, a well-known Jamaican singer:

reverse image search

Using Google Lens, it’s easy to determine it’s a fake profile. Just right click on the suspicious pic, choose “Search Google For Image”, then “Find Image Source”.

Google Lens reverse image search results

Google Lens will show you all the places the image pops up.

#3 - There Are Subtle Signs Of Photo Editing

Scammers often do quick edits, like superimposing all or part of a person from one image into the background of another. 

To spot these fake photos, we look at the lighting, as often in an altered image the lighting on the person’s face isn’t consistent with the background. 

Another red flag is the skin tone of their face doesn’t match other parts of their body, the proportions are slightly off, or things don’t quite align as you’d expect them too. These are all subtle signs the pic was altered. 

#4 - Your Potential Match Looks Slightly “Off”

With technology like Leonardo and Midjourney on the scene, AI-generated images are becoming more and more common. But with a sharp eye, you can catch them before you waste your time matching. 

Red flags we watch for include images that look highly filtered, or include anatomical details that aren’t quite right. AI still often struggles to get necks, hands, and complex background scenery looking 100% realistic.

Other small background details, like lines that should be straight but seem warped are also red flags that the image isn’t genuine.

#5 - Backgrounds Don’t Fit Your Match's Location

Most people include a travel photo or two in their lineup. But if all of a potential match’s photos are taken in places that obviously aren’t where they claim to be living, that’s a red flag.

Pro Tip: If you have doubts about someone’s photos but don’t want to immediately write the profile off as fake, do a little social media stalking.

Scan for links to Instagram, Snapchat, or other legit social media platforms. Real people are more likely to plug in their social media links in their bio as a form of verification.

This comes with one caveat though: If someone’s Insta or Snapchat handle is front and center in their bio, they’re likely only on the apps to round up followers, not actually meet anyone.

example of a Insta handle in a profile

If you’re at the messaging stage and they refuse to share their handle or claim not to have socials, that could be a warning sign. 

If you do get their handle, check how many friends or followers they have. Fake profiles often have extremely low numbers since they lack an authentic network. Anything under 10 followers should raise an eyebrow.

A social media account with only 7 followers

#6 - The Profile Lacks Substance

A lack of personal information in a dating profile is a big red flag. Genuine profiles tend to give a more detailed account of the person behind it, with information about their interests, hobbies, preferences, and what they’re looking for in a partner. 

After all, the whole point of being on a dating app is to meet matches. Singles worth investing your time on put effort into their profiles. 

“Lazy” profiles with lots of blanks don’t automatically mean you’re dealing with a scammer, but excessively vague or bare-bones profiles should give you pause.

Those are some of the biggest red flags our experienced team watches for before matching with someone. Now let’s take a look at red flags that pop up in the messaging stage, so you can avoid romance scammers. 

#7 - They Want To Move The Conversation To A Different Platform

Fake profiles get reported and banned frequently, as dating platforms are stepping up efforts to combat them.

Reporting a match on tinder

That’s one of the reasons scammers will try to move the chat to an alternative platform, like Whatsapp, Telegram, or email as soon as possible.

#8 - The Messages Seem A Bit Odd, Or Are Full Of Mistakes 

One telltale sign of a fake dating profile can often be found in the messages themselves. If the conversation feels disjointed or the replies don’t match the questions you asked, there's a good chance you're not talking to a real person. 

Scammers running fake profiles through bots or other automated systems frequently produce messages that simply don't add up. 

You may notice oddly phrased sentences, bizarre emoji usage that makes no contextual sense, or random info and statements thrown in without reason. 

Many of these operations originate from regions like Nigeria or Ghana, resulting in messages with glaring grammatical mistakes and broken English. These scammers are in a hurry to set up fake profiles, often following a script or copying and pasting information from elsewhere without paying attention to details.

#9 - Their Love For You Moves At Warp Speed

While some people are naturally flirtatious from the get-go, it's wise to pause if things seem to be moving fast. An overly forward approach combined with excessive affection often signals someone with ulterior motives and you should pump the brakes. 

As flattering as it might feel to get this type of attention, take a step back and ask yourself if the sudden intimacy and declarations of love feel reasonable, given the circumstances. Trust your gut instinct and be honest with yourself if something doesn't feel right.

#10 - They Avoid Phone Or Video Chats

A litany of excuses for why someone can’t do a video chat or phone call is a big red flag. They might initially agree to a video date, but invariably something will happen that prevents it from happening. 

You might try calling them, but don't be surprised when they fail to answer. And if they do pick up, there are telltale signs that something may be amiss. For instance, their camera might be covered or “malfunctioning” or their voice could be distorted due to some “tech problem”.

And, of course…

#11 - They Won’t Meet In Person

Scammers can’t meet you in real life, for obvious reasons. That’s why many of the personas they adopt are singles in jobs that involve long-term travel, like a military deployment or a contract position overseas.

If you find yourself messaging someone who gives you seemingly legitimate reasons for why they can’t meet you face to face, be extra cautious about what personal information you share.

#12 - They Ask For Money

A text message asking for money

Here’s the #1 way to avoid falling victim to a romance scammer: 

Never send money, or anything else, to someone you’ve never met in person.

Seems obvious, right? But remember, the best scammers are adept at manipulating your emotions and tugging your heart strings. And they’re in it for the long haul. Some victims who reported the losses to the FBI said they communicated for months before they got “the ask”.

Usually they start off small, asking for something like a phone, or money to cover emergency car repairs or a prescription medication they desperately need but can’t afford. The reasons are designed to be manipulative and compelling, making it hard to refuse. 

Those feelings of compassion and guilt are a scammer's bread and butter. And the amounts they ask for will get bigger and bigger. As long as you keep sending money, they’ll keep dreaming up compelling reasons for needing it.

In 2023 alone, over 64,000 people reported falling victim to romance scams, resulting in a collective loss of a staggering $1.1 billion. And that’s just from the victims who came forward. 

Many victims of romance scams don’t contact the authorities, often out of embarrassment or because they assume the money is unrecoverable. 

Fake profiles are on the rise these days, which is a troubling trend the apps are trying hard to fight. It’s easier than ever to block and/or report bad actors, and most apps now offer some form of AI-enhanced profile verification. Many even incorporate background checks into the features on offer.

But there is only so much the dating companies can do, and scammers are getting more sophisticated by the day - especially as AI evolves. 

A little vigilance while using dating apps is crucial, so keep the red flags and ways to spot a fake dating profile in mind as you swipe. Failing to identify these counterfeit accounts can leave you vulnerable, both emotionally and financially.

And if you want a little help, VIDA’s team of experts can manage all your apps for you. We’ll carefully select and screen potential matches on your behalf, and handle all your messaging too - all with an experienced eye for weeding out the bot & scammers.

Learn more about VIDA’s modern matchmaking service here!

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