The vast majority of Tinder’s 50 million swipers are found in 190+ countries around the world. They’re people just like you — looking for love or a steamy dalliance on the side. But, it’s understandable that a few rotten eggs are lurking in its darkest recesses, including scammers looking to make off with your pocketbook or personal information.
So how do you stay safe, get “matched,” and avoid getting Tinder-scammed in the process? Here are the four most common scams on Tinder and some tips for spotting them.
The catfishing scam is probably the most famous of online dating frauds. The catfisher will create a fake profile with an identity that isn’t his or her own. Then the scammer will seduce you off the site by getting your phone number or email address.
After getting off the site, the scammer has gained a little more trust from you. Then he or she will build a closer relationship by text, phone calls or email. You will never actually meet your catfisher in real life. If successful, the catfisher gets what he or she wants — your details to steal your identity, some way of compromising you financially, money or some form of sick gratification.
To thwart a catfishing attempt, keep your communication confined to Tinder until you meet the person in real life. Anytime you move to WhatsApp or text messaging to coordinate a date, know that you’re moving into more dangerous territory, and be careful with the personal information you share.
Another catfishing red flag is when the person stays in contact but never wants to meet for a date. Be cautious with someone like this and consider cutting off all communication, no matter how “trustworthy” the scammer appears. Don’t let yourself build trust with a person you’ve never actually met.
Catfishing is so common that MTV’s show Catfish is entirely dedicated to investigating it. Here’s how the professionals catch a catfisher.
Scammy Tinder Bots
With the advent of artificially intelligent chat bots, you could unknowingly match with a chat bot programmed to scam you. The chat bot will look like a normal Tinder profile, and it will simulate a conversation with you – even answer your questions. At some point, the bot will send a link to a game it wants you to play, a chat app it wants you to use, or some other website.
Once you visit the link, you might accidentally download a piece of malware that compromises your privacy. Alternatively, the link could take you to a fake website that tries to get your personal information.
To avoid getting scammed by a Tinder bot, here are some red flags to look for:
- Did the profile ask you to go to a link? This is unusual behavior for a normal person.
- Does the profile have only a few photos, and they all look generic, too professional, or too perfect to be true?
- Are the images overtly sexual or does the profile just seem a little too “fake?”
- Does the conversation feel unnatural?
- Does the profile link to an Instagram account that doesn’t seem legitimate?
- Does the profile respond too quickly? Bots sometimes respond faster than it would take a human to write the message.
If you think it could be a bot, ask a complex or very specific question. You could ask for more information about one of the pictures on the profile, or ask a multi-pronged question. You can even ask, “Are you a bot?” If you get a weird, out-of-context response – or if the bot refuses to address your question and changes the subject – you know it’s a fake profile.
If you identify a fake Tinder profile or Tinder bot, flag the account and report it to Tinder. And just to be safe, never visit a link that anyone sends you on Tinder unless you’re certain it’s legit.
Spyware and Computer Viruses
Incidentally, sometimes it’s not a bot, but a human who sends you a virus-filled link. It could be a link to an Instagram or Facebook profile, or to a personal website. However, instead of sending you to a legitimate site, the link will take you to a malware site that uploads viruses, malware, or spyware to your phone or computer. The virus then will install on your device and the scammer will steal your details, photos, address book, passwords and more.
If someone sends you a link on Tinder, be careful! It’s better to ignore the link and consider it a red flag that this person is potentially dangerous. While there may be a chance the link is legit, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Racy Photos in Exchange for Your Personal Details
This scam targets victims with the promise of racy and sexy photos. After a brief Tinder exchange, the scammer promises to send sexier and sexier pictures. As the excitement builds, the scammer will ask for more personal details in exchange for more revealing photos.
While most savvy users wouldn’t fall for this ploy, some people are so taken by the scammer that they share all kinds of details — even their Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, home addresses and more. We’re sure you’re smart enough not to fall for this scam, but it happens: be wary of anyone who wants to trade “sexy” photos for your personal details. It’s a big red flag that they may not be who they say they are.
Verification Codes by Email or Phone
The verification code scam is fairly easy to fall for. It happens when a scammer takes over the account of someone you already trust. It can happen on Tinder, WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media sites.
The scam works like this:
- You get a message from a friend asking for help verifying his or her account.
- The friend tells you that you’re going to get a verification code by email, text message, or phone, and could you send the code when it arrives.
- The code is actually yours! When you share it, the scammer will use it to hijack your account, steal your personal information, photos and other data, and subsequently scam your friends in the exact same way.
This scam is very easy to do when a scammer gains access to the account of someone you know. Never trust a verification code that comes to you from out of nowhere, and never share a verification code with anyone. It’s likely a scammer trying to hijack your account.
Take these actions immediately if you think your Tinder account was compromised.
Spokeo Can Reduce Your Chances of Tinder Fraud
Spokeo is a people search tool that scours more than 12 billion online and offline personal records, so you can verify the identity of someone you’re chatting with on Tinder. All you need is the person’s name, phone number or username and Spokeo does the rest.
Spokeo can pull up photos of the person searched, so you can confirm that Tinder photos are legitimate. If the person has a criminal past, Spokeo can find that kind of information too (for an additional fee). While most Tinder matches are just like you — others looking for love and maybe just a little bit of fun — Spokeo can help you spot the ones with nefarious intentions who could be trying to scam you.
Fascinated by emerging technologies like internet technology, blockchain, encryption, and the laws and market trends that follow them, Jeremy Hillpot has a background in consumer-investor fraud litigation, which provides a unique perspective on a vast array of topics including website tech, investments, startups, cryptocurrencies and the law.