What are dating sites doing to protect users this Valentine’s Day?

Over the past twelve months romance scams have had a moment thanks to shows like “The Tinder Swindler” and “Inventing Anna.” While these shows may have given out some slightly suspect advice to victims (no, you probably won’t be successful setting up an elaborate trap for a scammer), they did do a lot to raise awareness about the prevalence of these scams. Given that many scams like those portrayed on the big screen are perpetrated via online dating platforms, it seemed appropriate to check what anti-fraud measures some of the biggest websites have implemented.  

Profile verification 

Fraudsters often use someone else’s photos on their profile to disguise their own identity. This practice, also called catfishing, is becoming easier to prevent with several dating apps’ verification features. Badoo, Bumble, Hinge, and Tinder allow users to confirm that they are the same person as the one in the photos by submitting a selfie taken live, in app. This image then goes through automated and sometimes manual review to verify that the user is the same person appearing in the photos. Match does not appear to have implemented this feature in the U.S. 

If a user’s profile is not verified, they may not be who they say they are. Asking for a match to complete profile verification is a good way to reduce the risk of chatting with an imposter. 

Consumer education 

Fraud.org has received an uptick in reports of fraudsters peddling cryptocurrency scams to their matches on online dating platforms. Match Group—the parent company of Hinge, Match, and Tinder—appears to have also noticed similar misconduct on their platforms, as they have started rolling out an anti-fraud campaign across their various products. 

The campaign aims to raise awareness about romance scams and encourage users to report violative activity by displaying warnings against fraudulent activity, including crypto scams. Match Group states that it developed consumer education materials in coordination with law enforcement and financial exploitation experts. 

Community guidelines 

Badoo, Match, and Tinder have provisions within their community guidelines prohibiting scams or fraud. Badoo (owned by Bumble Inc.) has the most extensive anti-fraud provision, including a statement that appears aimed explicitly at romance scams: “Do not scam Badoo members, or deceive members in any way for financial benefit. This includes…[f]aking romantic intentions, financial and/or personal distress in order to get money.”  

Match and Tinder have identical statements in the “scamming” section of their community guidelines about “a zero-tolerance policy on predatory behavior of any kind,” as well as a prohibition on trying to receive money from users on their platforms.  

Hinge and Bumble both lack anti-fraud statements within their community guidelines. However, their terms and conditions require users to agree not to operate pyramid schemes, fraud, or other similar practices. 

If you are planning to go online looking for love this Valentine’s Day, here are some steps that can help you reduce your risk of being a victim of a romance scam: 

  • If anyone you meet on an online dating site asks you for payment, it’s almost certainly a scam. Be especially wary if they ask for payment via gift cards, cryptocurrency, peer-to-peer (e.g. Zelle, Venmo, PayPal) wire transfer, bank account debit, or other unusual forms of payment. 
  • If a match claims to be overseas and unable to meet in person, that is a big red flag. 
  • Beware of relationships that develop unusually quickly online. Know that scammers will attempt to quickly build trust so that a request for money seems more reasonable. 
  • Do a reverse-image search on any photos you receive from a match. This can help determine if a match is actually an imposter. 

If you or someone you know has been a fraud victim, help yourself and other by reporting it! By using Fraud.org’s secure online complaint form, your complaint will be shared with our network of consumer protection and law enforcement agency partners.