Fraud on dating apps is nothing new. Up to 35% of relationships now start online, and the types of conversations typically had on dating sites are perfect for bots. Get-to-know-you questions can be simply answered by programming bots to respond a certain way to specific keywords for questions like “How are you?” or “Where are you from?”
Malicious chatterbots can hide anywhere. Here’s why you need to always be cautious when looking for love online.
How Dating App Fraud Works
There are two categories of bots on dating sites: harmless bots that the sites create versus malicious chatbots programmed by fraudsters.
Yes, dating sites can legally create fake accounts, so long as users agree to it. I think it’s safe to say that most of us don’t thoroughly read the terms and conditions we agree to. After the FTC ruled that dating apps and sites can't create fake profiles without the user’s consent, dating companies started slipping it into their terms and conditions, which customers then agreed to.
In some cases, the fake accounts encouraged users to upgrade to paid memberships to continue their conversations, resulting in $616,165 refunded to customers.
Now, onto an even bigger problem: malicious chatbots. With chatbots, scammers can use computer programs to ‘talk’ to multiple potential victims at once. These bots are typically programmed to try to get users to download malicious apps or join separate chatting apps. If they don’t get what they want, they’ll ghost you and move on to their next match.
How to Know If You’re Talking to a Bot
So, what are telltale signs that you’re talking to a bot? You might be talking to a bot if your match:
Replies Instantly. Humans usually can't reply within seconds. We all have our busy lives and don't constantly check our phones. Bots, on the other hand, will reply within seconds through all hours of the day.
Repeats Answers. Bots are programmed with only a few conversational phrases, so if the person you’re talking to says the same exact thing more than once, they’re probably a bot.
Doesn't Speak Naturally. Bots might stress how much they don’t speak your language very well to excuse poor syntax. The conversation won’t flow well and will probably seem abrupt because they can only speak in predetermined phrases. Chatbots can't hold a cohesive conversation and won't answer your questions directly because they’re programmed to look at keywords and answer your messages accordingly.
Requests Money or Personal Information. If your match messages you asking for money or personal information, they’re likely trying to scam you.
Has a Generic Profile. Fake profiles are vague and typically won’t include many images or much information about the person.
Sends Links or Asks to Chat Elsewhere. After matching with a bot, they’ll want to get you off the dating site as quickly as possible, so they might send links to games or other chat rooms. Don’t click any unfamiliar links, as they might contain malware.
Swiping Left on Bots
There’s really no regulation on dating app fraud, although apps like Tinder have been cracking down on fraudulent users. Some dating apps now allow you to verify your account by linking a social media account, confirming your profile’s authenticity.
By now, it seems like common knowledge to not click on suspicious links or share personal information online, but it's still a problem for those looking for love online. Hackers will only stop when their ventures become unprofitable. So, beware of online matches sending unsolicited links or asking personal questions. Next time you see a suspicious profile, make sure to swipe left.