Catfish—they’re real, and they suck. Recent studies have shown that nearly 1 in 10 online dating profiles are fake. People who pose as women looking for dates online have a host of bad motivations. Some are hoping to get you to cough up some money before disappearing. Others are looking for attention. Others are just weirdos. But if you fall into their web of lies, you’ll wind up wasting a lot of time — time you could have spent chatting with someone who is actually interested in you and doesn’t feel the need to make up fake profiles.
The good news is that these online phonies can be easily avoided if you know what to look for. The next time your inbox lights up with a flirty message from someone, keep an eye out for these warning signs.
1) Their Pictures Are Ripped Off
Women who are serious about dating online will post several pictures of themselves: pictures at home, pictures while they’re out, pictures that show off their personality and hobbies. Fakers will post significantly fewer pictures, and sometimes only one. These images are typically ripped off of other sites. Scammers usually just swipe them from online modeling catalogs, hoping that a beautiful photograph will blind men to how obviously fake they are. If you suspect that a picture was just taken from somewhere else, run it through a reverse Google image search to find out.
2) Their Grammar Is Sub-Grade School
Does their profile read like something created in an English teacher’s nightmare? Every third word is misspelled, you see weird phrases that barely make any sense, and there’s not a single comma to help you make sense of the grammatical train wreck you see in front of you. It might be because they fell through the cracks of the educational system, but more likely they are living in a foreign country and English isn’t their first language. Dating sites occasionally have non-Americans posing as Americans in hopes of snagging American dollars. Keep your guard up if you are messaged by someone who is seriously grammatically challenged.
3) They Don’t Show Up In Public Records
If you were born, paid taxes, or even just lived in the United States, the government has a file on you. Since almost anyone with an Internet connection can access this information, you have the power to verify the story that your online lover is feeding you. Just search their first and last name in an online people search engine to see if you can uncover a birth record for them. If your online snooping doesn’t turn anything up, proceed with caution—they may be operating under a fake identity.
4) They Move Crazy Fast
If someone acts like you two are destined for each other the moment that you start texting, and emailing, put the brakes on. A fast operator doesn’t necessarily mean you are chatting with a diehard romantic, it might also mean that they are hoping to win your trust quickly—so they can take advantage of your affections.
5) They Only Want To Chat Online
If they want to keep communication to text and email online (no phone, no Skype, no face to face) that’s a red flag the size of a football field. If you want a relationship that involves more than text on a screen, you should simply keep looking. They’re probably hiding something, and if they’re not, they aren’t ready for a real relationship anyway.
Don’t be a dupe and fall for the over-the-top flattery of every single message you receive while dating online. By keeping your guard up, just a little bit, you can avoid the catfishers and actually enjoy your online dating experience.
Logan Strain is a writer for Instant Checkmate, an online background check service. When he’s not reading, he’s playing with his daughter.