Dating app scams are on the rise: how can you avoid them?

Staying safe on dating sites and apps is vitally important, with bad actors and scammers lurking on every platform

Tuesday, 9 April, 2024

Few aspects of modern life have been transformed by the internet quite as comprehensively as the dating scene.

A combination of ubiquitous technology and the ever-present risk of inadvertently causing offence has contributed to the demise of traditional methods of meeting people – talking, flirting and blind dates.

With over 1,400 apps now available to residents of the UK, it’s perhaps unsurprising that seven million people are currently registered with one or more online dating services.

There are apps for the over-50s (Silver Singles), professionals (Inner Circle), countryside residents (Muddy Matches) and anyone who hates woke culture (Telegraph Dating).

Some apps promise to find ‘the one’ through games and personality tests, while others draw their online subscribers together in local events – a curious inversion of traditional dating.

Regardless of your chosen app or your specific hopes and objectives, remember that dating sites can be risky places.

Romance scams are as old as time itself, exploiting human desires for selfish gain, which means staying safe on dating sites can be surprisingly challenging.

Social media vs reality

Dating apps are a form of social media, which is a bearpit of one-sided hot takes, false perfection and downright deception.

An alluring-looking profile might not actually belong to the person who posted it. Catfishing isn’t exclusive to MTV, after all.

One common scam involves a new acquaintance suddenly developing a financial crisis that requires assistance from a stranger they’ve never actually met.

Needless to say, no matter how compelling or plausible the story, it’s best to walk away. Block them, report them, close your profile – just ignore them, whatever it takes.

Internet scammers are routinely drawn to vulnerable, old and/or affluent users, so be aware that your defined choices and preferences could be used against you.

It’s okay to declare a love of fine wine and Alpine skiing, but you might start to attract attention from people more interested in your gold than your soul.

Look for apps which allow users to hide their location and control who they message. Two-factor authentication may be tedious, but it’s a useful bulwark against fraudsters and con artists.

You may be tempted to research a new paramour on other social media sites, or reverse search their profile images, but they could do the same to you.

What might they find out if they did?

An overshare

A common mistake inexperienced dating app users make involves posting too much personally identifiable information (PII) and abandoning your online privacy.

Try not to upload too many images of yourself, reveal your exact residential location, announce where you work or give away where you can be found in real life.

In particular, avoid discussing any children you might have. Some individuals direct their attentions towards single parents, for reasons we won’t discuss here.

Equally, be suspicious of any approaches from people decades younger or older than you. Their motives might be genuine, but equally, their profiles may not be.

Be prepared to block, delete or disengage from any communication which begins to feel unwanted, threatening, abusive, coercive or overly pressurised.

Cyberstalking is very real, so don’t pass on personal contact details or switch to other communication channels until you feel confident and ready to do so.

Get a feel for a new acquaintance’s personality before suggesting meeting up, and suggest a familiar public location like your local coffee shop.

Lunch meetings carry less pressure than evening dates, with their unavoidable what-happens-afterwards ambiguity.

It’s often better to have a video call beforehand, laying solid foundations for a successful first meeting.

The Thursday purdah club

Finally, it’s easy to become addicted to dating apps, forever scrolling and swiping in the same way we’ve become accustomed to doing on other social media platforms.

This might lead some people towards impulsive or otherwise inadvisable actions, especially over a drunken weekend or late at night.

If you’re worried about a spiralling obsession potentially making staying safe on dating sites harder, the Thursday app is only accessible one day a week.

True love prevails over all – even a six-day period of purdah between conversations…

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!