online dating scams: trending now

Horror stories, nuisance,  or the worlds oldest profession, online dating scams are everywhere, on  free dating sites or premium paid sites and apps like Tinder.   This takes a look at what is happening now based on examining various dating and hook-up sites, emails received from people fed up with the garbage, and a survey of 100 screened posts on Craigslist personals.

The experience of men and women is different.  This stems from the lopsided ratio of men to women who are willing to use online dating websites and apps – Men a lot; women not so much.  More on that later.  A person on Quora asked specifically what is most common, so on to the numbers…

Directing you to a Scam Website

By far and away, the number one scam present by frequency in online dating, it is when your “date” steers you to a Scam website.  Lets look at the most common variations.  These scams are easy to run, because the scammer is using automated scripts (“Bots”) to do most of the work of posting ads, profiles, and emailing their “dates.”

Date Verification Scam

Online Scammer reaches for your credit card

Most frequent I have seen, is the Date Verification Scam. This is where your “date” says that she is ready to meet you but needs to make sure you are safe and not a psycho-killer.  So “she” asks you to sign up to an identity verification site that has a small fee (e.g. $4.95).  So you agree to the small charge with your credit card, but what happens when you sign up, is that the fine print also enrolls you in another subscription based web-site, (or 2) at a much higher $20-30 per month price tag.  Once you find the charge on your statement, it is a slow process to get it reversed.

This happens so much on Craigslist, that I have nicknamed it the “Craigslist Dating Scam”.  

Presumably this sort of scam is common on free online dating sites like Craigslist  because it would be harder to convince someone who is using a paid site to go elsewhere.  Not saying they do not try, they do, it just happens less often on a paid site.

Another Online Dating Scam Site

The other common variation is directing you to another online dating website, (or hook up site) that has nothing but fake profiles on it.  The approach is basically the same, your “date” wants to meet you but you need to go to another dating site.

Internet Dating Horror Stories

While the dating website scams are a nuisance and deceptive, the other end of the spectrum is outright fraud and theft.  Less in numbers, but certainly the most harmful and insidious scam is the guy who leads on a woman and eventually asks for money.   Its an old scam that has new life because of online dating.  It makes the headlines because of the large amount of money lost.    It is not as frequent because it requires a lot of effort.

These seem to be most targeted towards older women, who have accumulated some assets over their lifetime like the Oxford educated Professor Lathlean from the United Kingdom.   Other common traits are loneliness, and a belief in a romantic destiny.  Anyone can be a victim though, there are plenty of stories of men losing money.

The New York Times reported Janet Cook lost $300,000.

A July 2015 New York Times Article, describes how it works.  This is the story of Janet Cook from Virginia, who lost $300,000.  The scammer meets the woman on the site, forms a bond with the woman thru emails and phone calls.  Then after he has won her heart, he informs her of is troubles.  He is sick, or stuck in some remote corner, and needs money.  The target who has bonded with the scammer sends money, and then disappears.

The Online Dating Experience

When posting an ad, men will struggle to get to a real person, while a real woman being the rare gem will likely be flooded with responses.

A  Washington Post article in August 2015 reveals the challenge men face.  They reviewed the Ashley Madison hacked data, which shows that only 15% of members were women (6:1 man to woman ratio).  The WaPo calls out Ashley Madison for posting fake profiles, so the number of women revealed in the data is inflated.  “Real women accounted for less than 2 percent of total profiles” on dating sites world wide.

Quick Facts: Ashley Madison Hack

I went undercover, and posted a fake women’s profile on a few sites in order to see what kind of responses I would get.  I did not receive any scams that I could discern, just a flood of responses due to the lopsided man to woman ratio.  I would characterize most of the responses like coming home to a puppy that was glad to see you.  Some of the responses were examples of why women don’t use online dating as much as men – Dude! I really did not need to see that!  Regardless of the quality, or um, quantity of the response my fake woman profile received,  I did not communicate further.  I already felt bad for the guys that contacted the woman in the profile.

The Oldest Profession


Last but far from least, no town is complete with out prostitutes, and neither is an online dating website.    I consider this a scam when the woman who posted the ad gives no indication that she expects to be paid.  On Craigslist, you usually find out when your date responds something like “this is a pay to play situation.”    On Craigslist, I estimate that 20-30% of the posts in WFM Casual Encounters were prostitution.

I am not moralizing about escorts or prostitution, if that is where you are and want to do, that is your business.  The issue I have is when it is deceptive, like the “lonely mom” that wants some company but responds that she has “hit a rough spot financially, can you help me out?”  They seem to have a different definition of “friends with benefits.”   I would not consider it a scam, if the profile or ad said that she was seeking a sugar daddy, or asked for a generou$ gentleman.

I am not picking on Craigslist, (not here anyway), it is everywhere.  One guy emailed me that he met a woman on Ashley Madison, exchanged emails and arranged a date, and exchanged flirty text messages for a week, only to find out a few hours before his date that this was a business for her.  (He said declined.)   Reports abound on Tinder, Match, OK Cupid, Grinder, and the list goes on.

Why do these scams work?

I will have more to say in the future on this, but for now just a thought.  When a scam makes headlines, a typical reaction is “how could a person be so stupid?”  I am going to cut them some slack on that, and just point out that the desire to be with someone is powerful.

There will always be an ebb and flow;  It is going to be a matter of “what is working now”, but they will always be there in one form or another.  We all need to remain on our toes when contacting someone from any online dating site, free or paid.

Check out my S.O.P. for a few quick tips on screening out the common online dating scams quickly.  In the future, I hope to have tools that will help quickly identify scammers, so come back now and then to see how it is progressing,


  • In October, I started receiving Drop Box Phishing Scams, as well as Spam asking me to go to the real Drop Box Site where there is the “opportunity” to sign up for some scam website.
  • In mid-November I started getting Google+ requests, again from a legitimate Google+ user, with a similar opportunity.

The interesting thing is that Yahoo doesn’t filter out the Google+ requests.  It goes without saying, stay away.  I also receive about 60 spam emails per day now, compared to 5-6 before.  It goes to show, what they intend to do with your email.

Would  you like to  contribute and maybe even help others?  We have a survey that would be tremendously helpful.  If you could take the survey here, that would be greatly appreciated.If you could take the survey here that would be greatly appreciated.

Be Safe.

Ronin Eternales

UK Daily Mail – Professor gave conman £140,000, December 10, 2015  
Washington Post – Ashley Madison Faked Female Profiles. August 8, 2015
The New York Times – Swindlers Target Older Women on Dating Websites. July 18,2015
Image Credits

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