One of life’s hard truths is that when we go looking for love, we often find heartbreak instead. Sometimes it comes naturally, from a relationship that just doesn’t work out for whatever reason. Sometimes it happens because we connect with someone who is deliberately out to do us harm.
That also holds true on platforms like Tinder, where people are mostly in search of a physical, rather than a spiritual, connection. A Tinder scam is no different from any other; at bottom, it takes advantage of human nature for financial gain. Here’s a short list of some common threats you might encounter on the hookup app and how to protect yourself against them.
Tinder Investment Scam
You wouldn’t think a hookup app is necessarily a place you’d encounter bogus investment opportunities, but you’d be wrong. Scammers have understood for centuries that physical and emotional attraction are the enemy of critical thinking and use this to their advantage.
On Tinder, that often means your potential hookup artlessly mentioning that they’re living their best life right now thanks to their investing prowess (because let’s face it, the prospect of easy money is right up there with the prospect of sex as a way to get someone’s attention). You’ll be coaxed into placing an investment on a platform your hookup uses and endorses, often one that’s purportedly for investing in cryptocurrencies.
Of course the site is fraudulent, as are your investment gains, and so are the further fees you pay to upgrade your account. Finally, to add insult to injury, the scammers will often charge a “processing fee” in order to release the amount you’ve earned on your investments. None of the money, of course, ever comes back to you.
Tinder Sextortion Scam
Sextortion stories have garnered a lot of attention over the last couple of years, in part because the victims are often young. A predator, usually posing as another youngster, encourages the victim to share racy photos or videos, then uses those to extort further, more graphic material. It’s as ugly a crime as anything the online world has to offer.
The version you’ll encounter as an adult on Tinder is a little bit different, because the perps aren’t manipulative pedophiles but scammers bent on financial gain. In this scam you’ll connect with someone attractive who then wheedles you into some on-camera nudity and eventually perhaps something more explicit. The scammer records this and then threatens to circulate the photos or videos to your real-life acquaintances, social media contacts and co-workers unless you pony up a payment. Of course, paying them once just sets you up for a fresh set of increasingly large demands.
Tinder Bots and Phishing Scams
Often the contact you make on Tinder is simply the first step in a conventional phishing scam. Typically they’ll tempt you to click on a dubious link (“Want to see some pictures from my private site?”), where your device will be infected by malware or you’ll be prompted to create an account. That account signup screen is designed to wheedle as much personal information as possible — increasing your vulnerability to identity theft — and may also ask for your credit card information.
The Tinder accounts in these cases may not even have a real person behind them. Sometimes they’re software-driven chatbots, like the ones companies use for technical support. Falling for a scammer is embarrassing; falling for a robo-scammer might be even worse.
Straight-Up Romance Scams
Even on Tinder, despite its quick hookup ethos, sometimes you’ll click with someone but spend a long time interacting before meeting up in person. Usually that’s legitimate, but sometimes it’s because you’re being played by a romance scammer.
Romance scams play out on Tinder the same way they do anywhere else. You connect, you “click,” you talk a whole lot (though you never meet in person) and then, inevitably, there’s a request for money. Usually the scenario is plausible and relatable — car problems, a health issue, a bill, a canceled flight that needs to be rebooked — and can only be solved by a quick transfer of money in one form or another.
Tinder and Armed Robbery
This is the kind of thing people tend to worry more about in the context of buy-sell sites like Craigslist, but it does sometimes happen on Tinder and other dating sites as well. Criminals will arrange a hookup between their fake “hot chick” profile and an unsuspecting victim, then assault and rob him.
The victims in these cases are almost invariably men, simply because women — sadly — are forced to learn the fundamentals of avoiding danger on a date relatively early in life.
Detecting and Avoiding Tinder Scams
As you might expect, Tinder’s own help pages contain solid advice about protecting yourself on the platform. One of the fundamentals is to keep your interactions on the site, where Tinder’s messaging filters can detect (and warn you about) deceptive, potentially damaging behavior. Scammers know this, and will usually want to connect with you directly through WhatsApp or social media instead, which has the added bonus of giving them more personally identifiable information.
Most of Tinder’s advice is simple good sense, including protecting your personal information, not sending money to anyone and showing a healthy skepticism toward potential contacts who are overseas or trying to “take your relationship to the next level” before ever meeting in person.
When in doubt, do a bit of digging. Everybody likes to have a good profile pic, but scammers have usually stolen theirs (a “too-professional” photo is a red flag). Using Google’s reverse image search can help catch them and confirm that they’re fake. Similarly, you can use Spokeo’s people search tools to chase down names, phone numbers and addresses if you have them. If those don’t match with the name and location you’ve been given, you’re probably being scammed.
What To Do Next
If you realize you’re being scammed, your first response should be to flag the interaction for Tinder to investigate. You can do that from any messaging window or profile page. If you’ve been lured off-site, take screenshots of your interactions on other platforms. You can report your issue to Tinder here, by choosing “I have a safety or privacy concern” from the drop-down menu and then following the prompts.
If the scammers have already cost you money, report them to the appropriate authorities as well. This includes your local police department, the FTC’s fraud reporting site and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3 as it’s also known.
Finally — and importantly — block the scam account and move on. Don’t waste your time trying to make them feel guilty (you won’t), and don’t rant about reporting them to law enforcement (why make it harder for the police?). Just walk away, and learn from the experience.
Stay Safe from Tinder Scams
Don’t fall (in love) for tinder scams and protect yourself by recognizing the signs that you’re being scammed. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is and will only lead to heartbreak.
- Better Business Bureau – BBB Scam Alert: Swiping Right on Tinder? Watch Out for Cryptocurrency Scams
- Interpol – Investment Fraud Via Dating Apps
- FBI.gov – Sextortion – Case Highlights Growing Online Crime With Devastating Real-Life Consequences
- ZDNet – UK Police Warn of Sextortion Attempts in Intimate Online Dating Chats
- NordVPN – How To Identify and Report Tinder Bots
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission – What You Need To Know About Romance Scams
- Marketwatch – Violent Gang Created Fake Profiles on Tinder To Lure Men – Then Allegedly Beat and Robbed Them at Gunpoint
- Tinder – Dating Safety Tips
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission – Report To Help Fight Fraud
- U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation – Internet Crime Complaint Center