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Top 10 Ways to Identify And Deal With Online Dating Scams

Sarah Pritzker
How to spot a fake dating site
Online dating has become a popular way for singles to meet. Dating sites are constantly springing up to fill the demand. What this means for singles is plenty of choices and plenty of opportunities.

Some top dating sites are more reputable than others, though, and one thing you want to look out for is a fake dating site. Typically, this means a fabricated site with fictitious profiles created solely for the purpose of stealing your money. The website will draw you in, accept your payments, and leave you high, dry, and most definitely single. 

There are plenty of trusted dating websites like Zoosk and Match, but there are just as many bogus ones. So how can you tell when a dating site is for real and when it's just a group of con artists trying to clear out your bank account? Here are some ways to ensure you don’t fall for a fake dating site: 

Step #1: Choose a Site with Safety Measures in Place

While a scam site won’t offer much security, real dating sites should offer a variety of safety tools to protect you. Zoosk, for example, uses profile verification to ensure users are who they say they are. In addition, it has created Zoosk Insignia, a new verification system that provides an extra level of safety against romance scammers claiming to be members of the U.S. military. 

Step #2: Read the Writing on the Wall

If you look at fraudulent websites' terms and conditions, you'll see that they state clearly that they make up profiles and even contact you from fictitious profiles from time to time. Any site that is creating profiles is a clear and obvious perpetrator of this deception. Legitimate dating sites have hundreds of thousands to millions of real people signing up and using their sites every day. They have no need to create profiles. So, beware this glaring red flag. Reading through terms and conditions can be tedious, but even a quick scan could save you time and money.

Step #3: Be Wary of Unrealistic Profiles 

If everyone on a dating site is gorgeous, ripped, and almost perfect, then it’s probably a scam. The reality is that people aren’t perfect. Not everyone is supermodel beautiful, and we all have flaws. If the profiles you are browsing through all look too good to be true, they probably are. Not to say there can’t be some incredibly attractive men and women on legitimate dating sites. But if you are seeing tens or even hundreds of these Barbie doll profiles, you’re probably sifting through a sham.

Step #4: Be Skeptical of Flooded Inboxes

You sign up for the dating site, create your profile, and within minutes, you've got a message sitting in your inbox. Nice! You must be a pretty desirable catch to get a message that fast, right? Maybe, but more likely, you’ve fallen into a bogus dating site. The lovely lady or muscle-bulging man who IMed you is probably a fictitious profile that is actually being run by the site owner or staff members.

Pay attention to who is contacting you and if the communication makes sense. Are you getting lots of emails within a few minutes? Are beautiful women getting in touch with you unsolicited? These aren’t guarantees that the website is a fake, but they are definitely warning signs that something might be amiss. Dig deeper into these profiles before you commit.

Step #5: Pay Attention to Ulterior Motives 

Most people wouldn’t jump into bed with someone without knowing a little about them. You want to get to know the person, make sure you have things in common, and most importantly, confirm that they aren’t a psychopath! This is even more true in online dating than in real life, where you at least have the luxury of confirming they are who they say they are. 

Be wary about people who try to develop an intimate relationship too quickly, whether it’s actually meeting up for a hookup, participating in phone sex, or sharing provocative pictures. This doesn’t always mean it’s a scam. It might even be common practice on some sites. But it’s something to at least be wary of. 

When in doubt—you can always run a quick background check online. Get to know the person behind the profile before you meet up in real life.

Step #6: Don’t Share Personal or Financial Details

This is an important tip even when using a legitimate dating site. There will always be people in the world ready to take your money and run. Never give out any personal information to a stranger on a dating site—even after you’ve spoken a few times.

A common trick scammers will use is to befriend an unsuspecting single, get close to them, and then tell them a sob story about how they have no money, their mother is dying, and they can't afford the medication, etc. Anything they can think of to get you to send them money. Don’t fall for it. 

Step #7: Take Your Time With Your Matches

Real relationships take time to develop. Don't rush into things, and be wary of anyone who tries to make you get into the fast lane early on in the relationship. 

Oftentimes when you meet someone in real life it’s through a shared connection--maybe your friend set you up, or you go to school together. This lack of context in the online dating world means you should give yourself a little more time to let trust build up. Take time and savor the organic process of falling for one another. If someone is trying to rush you out of your comfort zone, they could have ulterior motives, and even if not--they’re probably not right for you. 

Step #8: Observe How Your Feedback is Received 

It’s a sad fact that many online daters, and women in particular, have suffered some sort of online harassment. Most dating sites let you block guilty users and report their behavior. 

If you’ve had to make such a report, pay attention to how it was received. The legitimacy of a dating site--and really, any company at all--can be gauged by its responsiveness. If you find that your complaints have been ignored, or that people you’ve reported continue to harass you, then it’s fair to assume that the site doesn’t have its users’ best interests at heart and should be avoided.   

Step #9: Ask Around! 

Don’t be afraid to crowdsource. Chances are, your friends and colleagues are familiar with online dating and can offer some valuable advice. If you’re unsure about a site you’re considering, ask your friends if they know it. Did they enjoy the experience? Did they feel safe? Was it worth the money? The online dating experience can vary wildly from one person to the next, but others’ experiences, especially if you detect a pattern, can be a good measuring stick of a dating website’s validity.  

Step #10: Start Out with a Free Trial

Plenty of online dating sites offer free trials that let you use the site before you purchase a membership. While a free trial may come with limited access, it can give you enough to help you decide whether the users look legit and the site feels reliable. Just make sure to read the fine print first, and if you have to sign up with a credit card, set a reminder to cancel the subscription before your free trial runs out.   

Give Online Dating a Try...The Right Way

Online dating is an excellent way to meet new people. As long as you do your homework and keep your eye out for red flags, it can be a gratifying and even life-changing experience. The bigger dating sites offer plenty of safety features and policies to protect you, but some of the smaller ones may not be as accommodating. So do your research, ask others’ opinions, and try a free trial before you pony up for a full membership.There are plenty of legitimate sites that'll help you find love and companionship without ripping you off. Stick to the tips above to find what you’re looking for at last.

Sarah Pritzker
Sarah Pritzker writes for top10.com and is a content writer with years of experience and a keen interest in the vast world of online consumer products. She enjoys helping readers make sense of the options on the market in a variety of fields.