Don’t be seduced by phony dating sites in a hurry for your sensitive, personal information.

3 minute read

Now that many COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, you may be vaccinated and ready to get back into the dating scene. Maybe you’ve already started looking for a new love interest on a few dating sites. Be careful where you click, though. Not all dating sites are legit, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

You might have heard of romance scams, where con artists trick their starry-eyed prey into wiring them money or handing over credit card account information. However, the BBB Scam Tracker is now getting reports of a whole new scam: “In this con, it’s the entire dating website that’s a sham,” says the BBB.

So, how can you know if a dating website is the real thing?

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1. Member profiles are incomplete

When you sign up on a dating website, most sites ask for your credit card information for billing and lets you know that you must complete a dating profile. Once you start browsing other members’ profiles, however, watch for the red flag of users with incomplete profiles.

For example, when you go to the profiles of members who contact you, they’re missing photos and other relevant information. The site may also send you prospects whose profiles don’t line up with your preferences, such as someone who is outside your age range or lives in another state.

2. You’re bombarded with messages

If you haven’t even gotten to the part in your profile about being a dog lover who likes to camp, shop and cook before being bombarded with messages from admirers, be careful. Those hot-to-trot members may not even exist.

“It turns out that these other daters aren’t even real,” says the BBB. “The site is filled with phony profiles that make you think the site has many members. Once you figure out the hoax, you try to cancel your membership. But the site just keeps billing you.”

3. You have to pay to contact other members

In some cases reported to the BBB, scam dating sites required users to pay to contact other daters. One woman who filed a Scam Tracker report had to purchase “coins” on a dating site to chat with other members. After making her coin purchase, the woman said she was bombarded with nearly 200 messages in just a few days. Even worse, “I paid for coins three times and was double charged each time,” the woman reported.

4. Payment instructions are sketchy

It’s not unusual to pay a monthly membership fee for access to a dating website and other members. Before you get out your credit card, however, always make sure the site is completely upfront about how the billing system works. If the payment system isn’t well-documented or you find it confusing, it’s time to break up with that potentially fake website and move on to a legitimate dating site.

5. Another “member” asks you for money

When someone claiming to be a member of a dating site asks you for money, which is common with a romance scam, don’t send a dime. Not only is sending money to someone you meet on a dating website a bad idea in general, the person contacting you on a fake dating site could be the same con artist who actually set up the sham site for scam purposes.

6. The site has bad reviews and complaints

Before you sign up for any dating website, run its name through a search engine with “scam” and “reviews.” Keep an eye out for negative reviews and complaints that someone suspects the dating site is fake. If your search brings up too many disgruntled users, you may want to move along to a dating site that’s well-known and has a good reputation.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC