One problem that most of us who have used online dating have run into is the fake profile. Currently, online dating services don’t make it very easy to spot these fake profiles (although some discourage it better than others).
In this article I want to talk in-depth about my experience with “fakes” as well as offering you some thoughts on avoiding these profiles.
Stolen Credit Cards (and Why They Matter for Online Dating)
Why Would Anyone Want to Create a Fake Dating Profile?
Spotting a Fake Dating Profile
How Could the Situation Be Improved?
This might seem off-topic but it is actually a very important point to consider. Many of the topics I’ll discuss below might make you think, “Well, if I use a paid online dating service I’ll be protected because no one would pay $30 a month just to send spam”.
I would agree with this thought to a point: spammers/scammers won’t pay. However, it’s possible to buy stolen credit card numbers today (there’s an entire market for this) and they can still participate without paying anything. I know because it happened to me.
Photo by MoneyBlogNewz
Several years ago, someone stole my credit card numbers and then used it to sign up for a dating service. They didn’t empty my account or buy anything else. Just one dating subscription. I was relieved but also confused…I mean, I did have more than $50 in my bank account!
At the time, I suspected the dating service was in cahoots with whoever was using the credit card but I now realize that’s ridiculous. What was really happening (I suspect) was that someone stole my credit card to give themselves the appearance of being very real on the dating site.
So what’s the point? Don’t assume that just because you’re on a pay site that you’re 100% safe from scams. That’s one of the worst things you can do. Pay sites do offer much greater protection over free sites but not to the point of the problem not existing.
The fake profile problem generally falls into one of two categories:
- People (or theoretically the service itself) inflating the number of members when these people are either not real or not really interested in the service.
- People trying to take advantage of those using online dating
In each of the following examples I want to discuss reasons why fake profiles would be made. Understanding why some bozo would be motivated to create a profile can help you learn to avoid them.
Some fake profiles are an elaborate ploy to get you to send them money. I talk about it in great detail in my article on the Romance Scam but it comes down to them gaining your trust and then needing your help to get out of a horrible situation overseas.
As mentioned above, don’t believe you’re perfectly safe on a pay site. All the scammer need do is convince you to move the conversation to personal email addresses before their account is closed when the stolen credit card issue is recognized.
Spammers will generally use the online dating service as a way to have another method to send spam messages. This is going to be much more common with free services but can happen on the pay sites. This is attractive to spammers because they know what you are looking for (a relationship) so they in turn know what to spam you with.
Uncommitted Dating Site Visitors
Almost everyone falls into this category when they first start looking into online dating. Think about the first time you created a profile: did you really fill everything out as well as you could when all you wanted to do was browse some singles? I know I didn’t. These individuals aren’t as devious as the previous two but they do make the process of finding real people on the online dating service much more difficult.
The Dating Service is Tricking Me Conspiracy Theory
I don’t put much weight in this one but some people do: the theory goes that some dating services will create fake profiles to make their service more attractive to people thinking of subscribing. My opinion is that it is simply not necessary for larger services today. If 1 in 5 relationships are starting online (as Match claims) then the big services are having enough success that a tactic would be beyond foolish.
Still, some feel strongly enough that this could be the case that they have started lawsuits over it.
People with Non-Dating Motives
Some people sign up for dating services with no intention of using the dating service. For examples:
Couples who both sign up at eHarmony or Chemistry.com just because they want to see if the service will “match” them
- People with very low self esteem who create a profile of a person totally different than themselves
- People with too much time on their hands such as guys who create fake profiles of attractive women to see what emails other men would write to the woman.
I recently had one reader who had contacted me because she had created a profile for her son to prove to him how well online dating would work for him. Part of her process was emailing lots of different women to see who would respond. I understand her motivation but this was creating a bad situation for all those women who replied when she disappeared.
I’m sure this list doesn’t include all the reasons why someone would create a fake profile but it does highlight what you can run into.
There are ways you can fight against the fake dating profile problem although there’s no sure-fire way to avoid it altogether. Below are some suggestions to help you spot a fake earlier rather than later.
Pay Sites Do Help
First, pay sites will help, quite a bit in some cases. The free dating services are simply too attractive to a spammer or scammer who doesn’t want to get into the business of stealing credit cards.
I feel that eHarmony is particularly good at this because they have long sign-up processes that would discourage a spammer. Also eHarmony limits matches which would not be appealing to a spammer who would want to be able contact as many people as possible. The length of the communication process within the service also makes it difficult for scammers to move to personal email before the stolen credit card problem has been recognized.
Don’t Jump to Personal Email Too Quickly
Many people feel like they need to get off of the dating service email system as quickly as possible. Often this is motivated by nothing more than wanting to be able to respond to emails without having to log into a dating service at work.
The dating service email system will work fine, especially up to the first date. If you don’t want to wait until the first date I would recommend waiting at least a week or create a separate Gmail/Yahoo account specifically for online dating. This is normally overkill but it is easy to take this step.
The Beautiful and Under-Dressed
If you see a beautiful woman who is having a hard time preventing her clothes from falling off her body in all her pictures, pursue with caution. Everyone is different but generally women aren’t going to start looking for a relationship by using photos of themselves in compromising positions (let’s say in a bikini bent over a pool table as an example).
There is a tool you can use to “check” on a case like this and I talk about it in detail in my article on tools for detecting online dating scams. There is service called TinEye that will allow you to search using an image instead of searching with text. If you search for an image and find out that the picture is of model from Sports by Brooks (for some reason these girls are popular to use) in Los Angeles and you live in Wisconsin, you’re looking at a fake.
First, empty or near empty profiles are very often NOT fake profiles. However, they’re not offering any value either so they may as well be fake. For example, if a woman lists being interested in any guy between 4’8″ and 7′ tall, chances are it’s either a fake profile or a woman not taking the service seriously.
If Money EVER Comes Into the Picture
If you are ever asked for money when using an online dating service the best thing you can do is move on and forget you ever talked to them. No matter what kind of connection you thought you had. Scammers make people fall in love with an idea of someone that doesn’t even exist and then they steal from them. Don’t be one of their victims.
Don’t Let A Limited Number of Responses Get You Down
This is a little unrelated but I wanted to bring it up. If you’re not getting the responses you’d like don’t always assume that there’s something wrong with you or your profile. I would think this is especially true for guys since we do much of the contacting. There are many reasons why you might not get a response some of which I cover in my article on an absence of responses and fake profiles are one of them.
Guys will often struggle with the problem of fake dating profiles before and after the communication process begins. That is to say that they’ll have to weed through fake profile as they are contacting women and will also have to do the same when they begin communicating. Women will generally need to be more concerned after the communication has begun, unless they are doing a lot of contacting (which they should be doing if they want to)
Even with these methods trying to detect fake profiles, there is no perfect method. Because of that, don’t put so much time into trying to determine if a profile is real or not that you spend more time researching than contacting people.
As a user of an online dating service, there’s only so much you can do to detect fake profiles. It would be nice to see dating sites try improve the situation. For example:
- Provide More Profile Information. I think one way the situation could be improved is if services provided more information about the usage of the user’s profile. A perfect example of this is OKCupid. On each profile they show how frequently the person responds to emails. This is a great piece of information that can quickly reveal that someone is really using the service.
- Show Profile Age or Last Update Date. When I was dating online, there was a profile on Yahoo! Personals of an attractive girl that was (allegedly) written by her friends. Last year when Yahoo! combined with Match, I had logged back into my account to ensure everything was disabled prior to the merge. This girl was still on the site with the same photo and the same profile text (we’re talking 5+ years). If the services show the last profile update date, users would be able to eliminate these profiles.
- Limiting Initial Number of Contacts. This would be intended to help address issues with scammers or spammers . If the number of people a new user could contact was limited for 3 or 5 in a single day, it could greatly reduce the “damage” done by these people. It wouldn’t be perfect but it could help slow the problem. Once the account was trusted, the number of emails could be unlimited as they are now. If the service didn’t have a way to flag contacts as spam that would need to be included too.
Fake profiles will continue to be a part of online dating but hopefully some of this information has been helpful in helping you spot them.
How about you? Do you have any tips for spotting fake profiles? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.