Online scammers use fake profiles to trick innocent people into giving out personal information and some of these fake profiles can seem very real. Scammers take their time creating a great profile and making the victim feel comfortable before attempting to extract money from them. With the potential for any online profile to be fake, what are some red flags to look out for?

They only have one photo, no photos, or mismatching photos.

If someone has no photos, it could mean that they are hiding who they are and that they may be lying about themselves. Another thing you can look for is if the person’s face is visible in the photos they do have, or if the photos seem to be mismatched. Scammers often steal photos from people who look similar to each other online in order to create the facade of a “typical” social media account, but upon closer inspection, the person in the photos is always different.

They refuse to video chat with you.

Fake profiles will frequently refuse to communicate by video chat, which can be a good way to see who you’re really talking to. They’ll claim to be overseas or outside of the country—or even in a different state altogether. But if they won’t meet you in person and give you their phone number, it’s probably a scammer trying to trick you into giving out your personal information or sending them some money.

They’re asking for personal information.

Personal information is just that, personal and not intended to be shared with just anyone. By sharing your personal information you are opening yourself up to a potential scammer who will use this info for identity theft, fraud, or use it against you in some other way. Why do they need to know this information, anyway?

They don’t link to any social media profiles.

Linking to social media accounts isn’t something fake profiles typically do. This is because they often come and go quickly, in order to evade capture. If there’s no way to link to external accounts (or the person claiming to be interested in you can’t or won’t include them), it’s possible that the profile you’re corresponding with isn’t real.

They’re always traveling or having adventures.

A scammer will tell you whatever he or she thinks you want to hear in order to gain your trust. One of the most obvious red flags is if they are constantly telling you about their adventures and how they’re always traveling, but they never give you any concrete details. Scammers will often refer to these adventures as business trips, saying that they’re away at a conference or doing something else that makes it sound like it’s not just a vacation. It’s possible for people to travel around the world, but usually, that would mean the scammer has multiple jobs or lives with a trust fund—or both, all of which they probably haven’t mentioned in detail. When it comes to outings and hobbies, scammers tend to embellish in hopes of seeming more interesting and charming than they actually are.

They avoid being in photos with friends and family.

One of the most obvious signs of a fake dating profile is that the person avoids being in photos with friends, family, or coworkers. It seems like an innocent detail until you think about it—if these people are for real, wouldn’t you see them pictured with people they’re close to? If you notice that the person has a ton of friends on their profile but seems to avoid images that would include anyone else, it’s possible they’ve created a fake profile and stolen someone else’s identity.

Scammers are everywhere, and they will go to great lengths to trick you into giving them your hard-earned money. The better you are at recognizing their tactics, the less likely they’ll be able to succeed in their scamming attempts. Be on the lookout for red flags, and if you see an example of a fake profile, report it to the site so that others can help avoid the same scam. With these tips in mind, you’ll stand a better chance against scammers both short-term (not getting scammed) and long-term (educating others against getting scammed).

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