A reader recently contacted me with the following situation:
Just getting my feet beneath me with online dating. What comes clear very fast is that there is a LOT of faking going on, lots of winks from “cardboard” profiles with boilerplate language and a GQ profile photo. Can you discuss how to navigate this and even how to understand it — I don’t get the whole purpose, aside from them maybe asking for money, which of course I would never fall for.
So the simple answer is that if you know you’re being contacted by someone using a fake profile you should ignore it or possibly report the profile if it’s particularly blatant. However, before you run off and take that advice, I think a big assumption is being made here and I want to discuss that further in this article.
How Well Can You Spot a Fake Profile?
I think the heart of this issue is assuming that we know a “fake” profile when we see one. Personally, I don’t think there’s a huge number of fake profiles out there. Yes, there are a lot of “bad” profiles out there where little effort has been put in. There are profiles where it seems clear that the person is relying on their looks to have success (the GQ photo profile). There are people who are nervous or shy who don’t post a photo and go out of their way to be generic out of fear that they would be recognized.
So in all of these cases, we have what might look like a fake profile but it’s not. They are “bad” profiles in the sense that they’re not accomplishing a lot in way of explaining who they are or what they want. As unhelpful as these profiles might be, I think it’s important to recognize that bad profiles can often be attached to very real people.
Giving Some Bad Profile Owners a Chance
My thought, and what I shared with this reader, is that you can always communicate with someone even if their profile appears unbelievable – just do so with caution. You need not communicate with every person in this category but if there’s a possibility for connection or if they’re attractive you might give them a chance. Sometimes they might be worth giving a chance just because you don’t have any dates on the horizon!
There are only a few main reasons why fake profiles are created. If you keep these areas in mind as you communicate, you can increase the number of people you communicate with while staying safe. Generally I see fake profiles fall into one of these categories:
- They want to trick you into sending them money.
This one is pretty easy to combat: never, ever send gifts or money. Even if you’ve been talking for months. Also, if they talk about being overseas or unavailable to meet for long periods of time, that’s a sign they may be a scammer. If they start talking about being stuck in some far away country, you might be wasting your time.
- They want to hide their true identity.
This might be because they are married, or if they are insecure, or even if they plan on physically harming someone.
If you don’t trust the profile, it’s best to build that trust. That can be done through Skype calls to see they are who they say they are or even becoming friends on Facebook. Even after building that trust, meeting in a very public place for your first date is a good idea (it’s always a good idea honestly).
Also, someone planning to do something evil on a dating site would likely use a stolen credit card (otherwise the service could identify them). Because of that, if you don’t trust the profile, don’t move to personal emails or the phone right away. Communicate on the dating service for a week or two. This is because dating services aggressively remove profiles created with stolen credit cards. If their profile disappears after 3 or 4 days in the middle of a conversation, that’s a bad sign!
My thought is that many of the profiles we label as “fake” may not be. If you can avoid sending money, build trust and then meet publicly, I think you can be more willing to communicate with people with questionable profiles. I like this because I want to encourage people to date as much as you can when using online dating. That “fake” profile might actually be someone who just doesn’t understand that their profile isn’t giving enough information.
This Sounds Like a Big Hassle!
You might be thinking:
This is all well and good but online dating is a big enough pain as it is. I don’t want to waste any time trying to find out if someone is real or not!
I understand that thinking and I support it. However, I want to say that my main point here is that assuming you can spot a fake profile perfectly is probably causing you to miss out on some opportunities. Assuming you can easily recognize a fake profile can also add risk! In a certain sense, we should always operate with some caution when meeting someone new. If you’re convinced you know a fake profile when you see one and throw caution to the wind on every “safe” profile you see, that’s risky!
I guess I’m saying that I wouldn’t assume every bad profile is a fake profile and that every good profile is legit. If the profile stinks but has a great looking photo attached to it, it might be fake or it might just be a guy who relies on his looks to get dates. Maybe that’s a reason to not talk with him on its own but that doesn’t make his profile fake!
I’d encourage you to be open but cautious. Creating strict rules around what makes a profile fake can be harmful to your success in dating online. Some people even go so far to say that every profile without a photo is a fake profile. Had I adopted that line of thinking, I’d have never met my wife!