Online dating: How to help scam-proof your love life
Online dating has become a popular way to meet someone special, but people are not always who they say they are — or even real. Here’s how to protect your heart and wallet.
Is there anything more romantic than searching for love on the apps — only to find yourself swapping sweet nothings with a bot?
As if it wasn’t already tricky enough to find “the one’’, dating apps are now being infiltrated by people who don’t even have a pulse, let alone a real personality.
And while these bot suitors might be trying to steal your heart and presumably your bank account details, it’s got to be said they’re a little stiff on the small talk.
I know this because I found myself chatting with a handsome-looking chap — “chap-bot’’ if you will — on Tinder.
Chatting up the “chap-bot’’
“Hello! What’s up, Timothy?” I ask.
Admittedly not the most compelling opener, but I already suspect he is not of the human variety and I’m up for some giggles.
“I’m fine, beautiful girl, nice to meet you,” Timothy says.
“Let me introduce myself. I am from Charleroi, Belgium, and I have been in Australia for five years. And you?”
I respond with tongue firmly in cheek.
“Please Timothy, allow me to introduce myself also. I am Larissa, originally from Melbourne, Australia. I like surfing, writing and ChatGPT.
“My greatest wish is to find a husband on Tinder.”
As the conversation stutters on, Timothy notes that we have the same ideas and interests.
Handily, he has dual citizenship, and adores the Australian way of life.
“I have family in Australia. I love my job and I will always live here,” he declares.
Timothy wants to find someone with similar interests and values, build a friendship, “and then I want us to be together”.
Did I mention he’s a cryptocurrency investor?
At this point, I decide it’s time to scare the bot into action and suggest a real-life meeting.
However, Timothy says he would like to continue getting to know each other first, by moving the chat across to WhatsApp.
“Let’s get out of here and see what happens, what do you think?” he offers cheekily.
Sadly for Timothy, I decide things have run their course and hit delete, before reporting him to Tinder.
But it got me wondering: Are there bots out there with a smoother line of chat than clunky old Timothy?
How to report dating and romance scams
The Scamwatch division of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says dating and romance scams are among the most common type of scams reported.
While it doesn’t have specific data on the use of bots, the ACCC received 2784 reports of dating scams between January 1 and September 10 last year, totalling almost $25 million in losses.
ACCC National Anti-Scam Centre executive general manager Heidi Snell says there are some common signs of romance scams, such as your suitor being unable to meet in person or needing help with a crisis.
They often try to evoke empathy and claim to be financially stable but ask for money — with fake reasons such as needing money to finalise a deal or escape their country.
If you find yourself being chatted up by a bot, Tinder advises taking swift action.
“We strongly encourage users to report any suspicious behaviour to us directly so we are able to identify, stop and remove these criminals,” a Tinder spokesperson says.
What to do if you suspect a scammer
There are some specific warning signs to watch out for when it comes to bots, including the fact that they’re rarely offline, Heidi says.
They will also often repeat your question back as a way to confirm they have understood.
“Responses by bots are often returned in a quicker time than a human would take to think and type,” Heidi says.
“The topic of conversation only changes if you change it.
“The bot won’t think up new conversation threads.”
What is being done to crack down on dating scams
While Tinder isn’t the only dating app being gatecrashed by bots, its parent company, Match Group, is employing a range of strategies to try to stamp them out.
Between January and March last year, it removed almost five million bots and spam accounts from its sites, which include Tinder, Match.com, OkCupid and others.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy for this type of behaviour and are constantly investing in ways to keep users safe while they’re using Tinder — including a robust suite of safety features and in-app safety education, fraud detection technology and working directly with law enforcement when needed,” the Tinder spokesperson says.
At the time of writing, Tinder was testing a new ID verification process, and had released video selfie functionality to enhance an existing photo verification feature.
Users are also encouraged to read the safety tips in Tinder’s School of Swipe and its Dating Safety Guide.
More on dating and relationships:
- Four online dating tips to help keep you safe
- How to craft an irresistible online dating profile
- Flirt-ual reality: How the metaverse is changing the dating game
- Signs you are on to a relationship winner
Written by Larissa Ham.