The Simility Blog

How to Avoid Being Catfished By People on Dating Apps (Plus Tips on How to Find Love this Summer)
Jayan Tharayil
May 16, 2016

With many top dating apps simplifying courtship down to a simple thumb swipe, it’s a wonder that online dating, despite being normalized as a means to find love, now comes with ample new ways to experience heartbreak. Beyond losing your mind waiting for a text back (damn you ellipses!), or trusting a profile photo from approximately 100 years ago (81% of online daters lie about their age, height or weight), the more than 40 million Americans who have tried online dating now have to contend with Tinder robots, spam messaging and flat out fraud, or catfishing.

Ain’t love grand?

While we often think of online dating as the purview of the twentysomething hookup culture, or the middle-aged divorcee, those most likely to be victimized by online dating fraud are actually women over 65. While 70% of men in that same age group are still married, only 45% of women are; living longer is not without its drawbacks. With such slim pickings, it is even more depressing to learn that older women have been consistently targeted by scammers who prey on these women’s desire for connection and then attempt to extort money from them, all in the name of love.

Unlike Gaga, she does not want your bad romance, Lorenzo von Matterhorn.

Fraudsters use online dating platforms to send messages that range from the outlandish to the just plain annoying. Taking the form of direct private messages between users and using everything from templated natural language to highly personal references, it’s been difficult for online dating companies, not to mention actual users, to separate the good messages from the bad. There can be thousands of data points in a single short message and multiple possible interpretations for each. After all, flirting can take various forms; what might be offensive to one person could be titillating to another.

The good news is that with the right fraud detection software, like Simility, companies like Bumble, OkCupid, even the ultra-niche Bristlr (beard-lovers unite!) can cut down on these interactions through a variety of algorithmic triggers. Comparing profile images against Google Images or other account profile images, for example, can help to determine if the message includes a stolen online photo. By comparing the credibility of senders’ actions to their profile, these users can be quickly flagged.

How to Avoid Online Dating Catfish Schemes

So how can you cut-down your own risk? Here are a few tips:

  • Take a cue from an intelligent fraud analytics company, Simility, and perform your own manual online image search to see if that hottie is actually a photo scraped from the web
  • Review messages for personalization. Did the person reference anything specific from your profile? If the message seems generic (or is clearly a copy/paste), then there’s a higher likelihood of fraud.
  • Can they handle a follow up question? Many dating apps are hyper-localized yet many fraudsters are operating from remote countries. Test your prospective future partner and mention something everyone in your area knows (the recent closing down of a local watering hole, for example) but that won’t immediately show up in an internet search.
  • Invite your potential paramour to connect in-person, or at least move from texting to video chat? A lack of willingness (or promises made and then broken, usually due to family emergency or technical difficulty) is a red flag.
  • Obviously if the conversation steers itself toward lending money, shut it down. Additionally, some catfishes setup conversations for long-term scams, so anything that appears too good to be true initially, often times ends up being just that.

Now, because none of this is going to deter anyone from seeking the sweet madness of cupid’s digital bow, we checked in with celebrity dating coach, Laurel House, for some dating app profile help to boost those swipes to the right.


Online dating pathway: What the process looks like for online dating

Image source:

Our Best Online Dating Tips (Via Celebrity Dating Coach, Laurel House).

  • Know your dating purpose – Be sure that your desire (are you seeking a long-term relationship) matches your words (then be explicit about what you’re looking for) matches your actions (refrain from hooking up on a first date). That is called integrity.
  • It’s okay to go a bit deeper – It’s easy to fall into text-style conversation, but typing doesn’t lend itself to substantive conversations that create real connections. Take control of the app! Don’t let the platform or the form control your style of communication and engagement.
  • A picture tells a thousand words– When it comes to your online dating profile don’t hide behind old photos, and do put up a mix of images that shows your lifestyle. Let’s take a deeper look at what makes profiles and profile photos attractive:

Simple Dating App Profile Photo Fixes

  • Avoid obvious selfies
  • A genuine smile – one that creates slight wrinkles around the eye
  • A slight head tilt or not looking directly at the camera OR within your photo, you are not looking directly at the camera
  • Avoid using group photos or an image where people have been clearly cropped out
  • For photos with multiple people, make sure everyone appears to be having a good time (not just a few too many shots of tequila)
  • Choose one photo that includes members of your preferred gender – They shouldn’t be all over you, but it wouldn’t hurt to have one in the background
  • No photos with your ex
  • The profile photos are not grainy, taken from too far away, and are clear

More Complex (But Obtainable) Dating App Recommendations

  • An instagram account that shows your active, fun, outgoing person with plenty of friends
  • This means, no selfies (or very limited amount), no pictures of coffee cups,
  • Nothing too controversial.
  • Wittiness (in a caption)
  • Perceived level of (basic) fitness
  • Close proximity to friends; basic and appropriate touching
  • Show off your personality with witty, grammatically correct photo captions
  • Put up between 4 and 6 photos including a full body photo. Your main photo should be chest and up, looking at the camera, smiling, wearing no sunglasses.
  • Prequalify. Don’t just go out on a date without any information. You are setting yourself up for yet another bad date. Get to know each other over the app, then have a phone date, and finally go out on a date. You don’t have to get too deep initially, but understand what is important to you and get that out of the way first (for some people, these things could be faith, family, or location/distance).
  • When it comes to the ice breaker conversations, think about what questions you would like to be asked.
  • Be authentic. Show your humanity- that breaks the barrier and is disarming. Be quirky. Be real. Be YOU!
  • Don’t try to be sarcastic online. Sarcasm doesn’t translate over text and without knowing your humor. It comes across as rude, dismissive, offensive, or jerky.
  • When continuing the conversation, remember- Comment, Share, Ask. Comment on something, share something about yourself, ask a question. Surface conversation is the “what.” Conversation of depth is the “why.” Make sure to tell and ask “why.”
  • Just because they don’t ask you a question, doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested. Some people simply aren’t good at app conversation. That being said, you still do need to share. The strategy to do that is by asking a question, then sharing your own answer.
  • Don’t “Lily Pad!” When they share, don’t just skip to the next topic- that’s what I call “lily padding.” Instead, acknowledge what they said, and ask about the “why,” or hone in on a specific detail that you want to know more of. The smaller and more focused the question, the more insightful and interesting the answer can be. And that’s where you connect.

At the end of the dating day, online dating fraud is so dangerous because it preys upon our common desire to love, be loved and find someone to explain our crazy Game of Thrones theories with late into the night in between pints of ice cream and other…more adult things.

We all want to believe in love but keep your emotions in check and fully vet anyone that seems too good to be true. Educate yourself on the fraud detection policies employed by your preferred app and keep a record of communication. Report any suspicious activity immediately. Your true future summer love will thank you for keeping hope alive (and your heart and bank account safe).

Fraud and abuse (fake accounts, payment fraud, scams, fake reviews, account takeovers, etc.) are constant challenges for people and for businesses. While there are many third-party solutions targeting only credit card fraud prevention, companies have to build their own systems for holistic user and transaction fraud and abuse management. This is where Simility comes to the rescue. We give any company the same sophisticated, customized fraud-fighting software usually reserved for large companies with big dedicated fraud departments. Contact us now with questions or to schedule a live demo.