How to protect yourself against online dating site scams

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At ESET, we want you to stay protected whatever you do online. From shopping to banking to work, securing your privacy at every step of the way is important, and if you’re one of the many people looking for love online, it’s crucial that you know how to protect yourself in the digital dating space too.

Dating sites can be a wonderful place to meet new people, make connections and find a romantic partner, but if you've watched Felix’six’s latest documentary The Tinder Swindler you’ll know how easy it can be not only to fall in love online but also fall victim to dating scams and romantic fraudsters.

The Tinder Swindler follows the stories of women who fell victim to a cruel online dating scam led by Simon Leviev, who used dating apps to establish genuine relationships with women before asking them to use their savings or take out bank loans to help support him in so-called emergency business situations, ultimately leaving them deeply in debt instead of deeply in love.

With February being the month of love, the documentary is a perfect reminder for online daters about just how easily well-meaning love seekers can be conned into parting with their pennies.

As you know, we’re all about raising awareness through every season and the season of love is no different. We thought we’d share some important do’s and don’ts to help you protect yourself against online dating scams. We want you to find true love and not false love that leaves you digging your way out of debt.


Be aware from the start

While it may take some time for the scammer to start asking for money, there are a few signs that you can be wary of from day one. They may express money worries in a casual conversation or use financial trouble as an excuse not to meet, which should raise some red flags. Also, make sure that the details they share with you add up. For example, if they claim to be from a specific area but don’t know much about the local food then you might want to hang back a little.

Be a stalker

It’s important to check out their social media accounts to make sure they’re consistent and have more than just a few friends - very few friends should lead to your suspicion. Also, check out the engagement they have with their social media friends. If you happen to have mutual friends, there’s no harm in reaching out to hear how they know your match. Doing a general online search can, too, be helpful with cross-checking their name, photo, location, and email address.

Carry out a reverse image shot

Doing a reverse image search on their profile pictures may feel a little stalker-like, but it’s an accurate way of identifying if they’re using a fake profile or not.


Don’t rush

While whirlwind romances do exist, often, online dating scammers will profess love quickly before meeting you, which is their attempt to gain trust before they ask for money. Be wary of a relationship that moves at an unusually rapid rate. Take things slow and steady while you give yourself time to suss them out.

Don’t send money

This may seem obvious, but it’s important to remember that an online dating scammer’s main aim is to steal your heart so that they can steal your money. When your heart is involved, it’s easy to fall into their trap. They might even send you some money first to gain your trust. No matter how convincing their story may be, be extremely careful. It might help to talk to someone you know and trust to get an outsider’s perspective on the situation.

Don’t share your personal information

Don’t rush into sharing any personal details that could be used to impersonate you, such as your home address and contact details. This could also lead to potential harassment if you let them know that you won’t be sending money. If you’re feeling suspicious about your online romance, stop communicating with the person immediately, talk to a friend or family member about it and do your research before it’s too late.