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5 Tips for Spotting Imposters on Dating Apps

Steven Losardo, AMFT 

The creation of online dating apps has been the start of love stories for millions of people. However, getting to know someone can be risky when you are not face-to-face. Some people shy away from online dating apps for the fear of getting catfished or being the victim of a romance scam. The fear of being catfished causes anxiety, but there are ways to avoid it. 

What is a catfish? A catfish is someone who is posing as another person online with a fake profile. Catfish are imposters who use another person’s identity and photos to lure others in to send them money or sexy selfies (Allaire, 2019). Notes Mosley et. al, (2020) note that “women are more likely to be targets and men are more likely to perpetrate this form of online dating deception.” 

Tips to spot imposters on dating apps: 

  1.     Trust your gut – While the phrase “trust your gut” is commonly tossed around, there is a good reason for it. When something isn’t sitting right, there is often a reason you feel that way. As humans we have instincts to protect ourselves. Sometimes we have to just trust our gut when it comes to online dating. If someone seems to be not who they say they are, then they may well not be.
  2.     It’s a red flag if someone asks you for money – The Federal Trade Commission (2019), highlights if your potential match requests money, you should always say no and report them to the dating site. Further, scammers are con artists; in an effort to extort money they will come up with a sob story Norton. (2021).  They are clever: they may say they are injured and cannot afford hospital bills, or ask you to pay for travel expenses and then at the last minute cancel the visit to meet you. If they ask you to wire them money or for a gift card, they are using methods of romance scamming which allow them to remain anonymous (Federal Trade Commission, 2019).
  3.     Google the person – You can easily find personal details about people from websites like White Pages. Information such as home addresses and birthdays are sometimes available on sites like these. If your match shares any personal details about themselves, you can check if what they are telling you is consistent (Benwell, 2019). You can also do a reverse image search using their profile picture: right click their photo, copy the URL of the photo, and paste it on Google Images (Taylor, 2013; Norton, 2021). If the search result comes up with a Facebook or Linked In profile with a different name—then you have caught an imposter.
  4.     Ask to see social media accounts – Sometimes people link to their social media accounts on their dating profiles (Taylor, 2013). It’s often appropriate to “friend request” or add your match on social media. If they refuse, or avoid the subject when you ask, they could be concealing their identity from you, or hiding the fact that they are married, for example. Be aware, however, that older adults may not have a social media presence. 
  5.     Ask to video chat over FaceTime or Zoom – This is a straightforward way to quickly determine whether your match is who they say they are. You may not want to video chat with someone right away, but if you have been talking to someone for weeks and they make excuses not to FaceTime or Zoom, it could be a sign they are a dating app imposter Norton. (2021). Video chat would instantly give away their true identity, so imposters will never agree to it (Taylor, 2013).

You can never be too careful 

Internet safety is crucial when it comes to online dating apps. You never really know who could be behind the screen, so it’s important to be very cautious. Dating apps can lead you to finding someone special, but it’s important to be smart. Investigating your potential matches will decrease your anxiety in the process and help you spot imposters. Remember to trust your gut, and if something feels off you are probably on to an imposter. 


Allaire, N. M. (2019). Have you caught a catfish? Online dating can be deceptive. The

Conversation, 23.

Benwell, M, (2019). How to catch a catfisher. Retrieved from catfisher on May 11, 2021.

Federal Trade Commission. (2019). What you need to know about romance scams.

Retrieved from

romance-scams on May 11, 2011.

Mosley, M. A., Lancaster, M., Parker, M. L., & Campbell, K. (2020). Adult attachment and

online dating deception: A theory modernized. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 35(2),


Norton. (2021). Tell-tale signs your online date may be an online fraud. Retrieved from

be-an-online-fraud.html on May 11, 2021.

Taylor, K. (2013). 5 Ways to spot an online-dating scammer. Retrieved from

dating-scammer on May 11, 2021.

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