How to spot an online dating scammer
We’re at our most vulnerable when we’re looking to make a connection with other guys – when we’re looking for affection, when we’re looking for sex.
Unfortunately, online dating platforms attract fraudulent activity.
Online dating operators have systems in place to try and protect users as much as possible from fraudulent activity, but nothing is foolproof. You have to keep your wits about you.
How do I tell if an online dating profile is fraudulent?
There’s no hard and fast way to do this – but there are a number of tell-tale signs that you should be alert to.
If you start chatting with someone and they almost immediately ask for your email, don’t give it to them. Same applies if they want to immediately shift the conversation to WhatsApp. Keep the conversation in the dating app until you’re confident you’re dealing with a real person.
If the photo looks like it’s been shot by a professional photographer, it’s probably a fake. If they can’t send you additional photos of themselves, this raises alarm bells.
If they haven’t filled in any of the bio fields, that would make you question what they’re hiding.
If they’ve filled in their bio fields but it doesn’t feel very authentic. That would raise a red flag.
You might come across sex-workers who are using online dating platforms to connect with potential clients. If you’re not interested in that, you can simply respond appropriately or Block them.
If you’re chatting with someone, and they ask you to send them money, don’t. Even if it sounds like they really need it – maybe they’ve got medical bills, or a sick grandfather, or some other really compelling story. Even if you’ve been chatting with them for quite a long time and you feel like you’ve established a rapport with them. If the money is to buy a ticket to come and see you – they won’t show up. Do not send money to strangers on the internet.
Generally, if something feels too good to be true then it probably is. Trust your gut-instincts – if you think you might be chatting with a scammer, put an end to that conversation.
What should I do if I think I’ve been contacted by a fraudulent online dating profile?
Most dating platforms will have a Report function. On Gaydar, when you’re looking at someone’s profile you can report it by clicking on the triangle warning symbol.
It’s a good idea to report anything you think looks fraudulent – this will generally put the suspect profile in front of an employee of the dating platform – they can review it, investigate it, and suspend the account if necessary.
You should also use the Block function to prevent that profile from contacting you in the future. Don’t waste your time or energy on profiles that you think might be fraudulent. Focus on authentic guys that you have a connection with.
A beginner’s guide to online dating
Whether you’re new to the queer dating scene, looking to dip your toe back into the water, or just looking to expand your horizons and meet new people, online dating is one of the tools that you’re probably going to want to try.
But how do you get the most out of online dating?
Here’s a few tips to get you started.
Don’t be a dick
One of the downsides of online dating is that it can sometimes seem to encourage people to express unhealthy prejudices and toxic behaviours.
Embrace the karma of online dating. Conduct your online dating so that you are treating people in the way that you would want them to treat you – with respect, with honesty, with kindness.
Focus on positive things that you do want
If you’re looking to meet new people, but you see yourself reflected in the long lists of what people don’t want, that can be really hurtful, and it undermines our self-esteem and self-worth.
Don’t be racist. Don’t fem-shame. Don’t body-shame. It’s okay to say that you’re looking for a physical connection, but encourage people to start a conversation and see where things go from there.
Don’t try and force a connection
Spamming people with unwanted messages can feel like harassment.
If someone doesn’t respond to your messages, don’t waste any negative energy getting frustrated about it, move on and focus on people that you do find a connection with.
Show some respect
Totally ignoring or ghosting someone is rude, and sends a signal that you don’t value them or that they’re somehow inferior to you.
If you don’t feel a connection with someone, tell them in a way that’s direct and honest, but not cruel.
Make sure that your profile is up to date. It’s okay to highlight the things you like best about yourself, but don’t pretend to be someone that you’re not.
What’s the history of online dating?
Dating before the internet
As well as meeting at bars or out cruising, one of the main dating options for queer guys was personals ads.
Gay magazines would all have a personals section, where you could list your profile. There generally weren’t any photos – it was just a few lines of text that listed your age, your location, and what you were looking for.
If you liked the look of someone’s profile, you had to send a letter to the magazine. The magazine would then send it off to the person that you wanted to contact. If they were interested, they would then write to you or call.
It took some patience, and the strike-rate wasn’t particularly high, but it was reassuring to know that there were other guys out there looking for the same thing as you.
The emergence of online dating
Henry Badenhorst and Gary Frisch created Gaydar when a friend told them that he was too busy to find a date.
The emerging technology of the internet enabled the founders of Gaydar to take the principles of the printed personals ads in the magazines and speed up the whole process.
Being able to send and receive messages in real-time was a total game-changer.
Gaydar became the first gay social network – a platform that brought men together and created a safe space for them to talk and connect with each other.
Keep your phone handy
The rise of the mobile means that most of our day-to-day life involves regular interactions with our phone.
The geo-location functionality of smart-phones took online dating to a whole new level.
When is peak dating season for queer guys?
There’s never really a down-time in terms of when guys are looking to connect with other guys, but we do see some peaks at different points of the year.
The festive period across Christmas and New Year is a big one, and we see a big step-up in early January – meeting new people seems to feature high on everyone’s list of New Year’s resolutions.
The Easter period is also very popular – lots of people are off work for a few days or travelling on vacation.
The summer months of July and August also see a spike in activity.
To be honest, there’s not really any down-time. We’re always on the look-out, always open to meeting new people, always up for a bit of fun.
We are family
Throughout Gaydar’s 20-year history, we’re a business that’s been founded, owned, and managed by people who are proud to be part of the LGBTQ community.
We’re here to help our members connect with each other, because we know from personal experience how important that is.
We advocate for equality and fight against discrimination and homophobia because we know from personal experience how it feels to be treated as less than equal.
We’re waving our flags at Pride marches around the world because we respect and honour the people who fought for our rights, and we want to create a better future for the generations of LGBTQ people who come after us.
How to stay safe when using online dating
What are the risks?
Being abducted or becoming the victim of a serial killer are probably at the extreme end of the risk spectrum, but these things have happened. Being cat-fished seems to be fairly common, and incidences of fraud, robbery, and assault happen too regularly to be ignored.
What steps can you take to stay safe when using online dating?
Whatever you do in life involves some element of risk, but it makes sense to exercise a bit of caution and – where possible – mitigate the known risks.
Here’s some tips on how to get the best out of online dating without putting your personal safety at risk.
Look for warning flags
If you’re chatting with someone online and navigating the early stages of a meeting or a hook-up, be on the look-out for anything that might make you extra cautious. Are they being aggressive, or pushy? Are they suggesting something that you don’t feel comfortable with? How do they respond to your suggestions?
Don’t let your libido cloud your judgement – if something doesn’t feel right, you need to exercise caution.
Have your first meeting in a public place
There’s nothing wrong with suggesting that you meet for the first time in a public place. Even if you’re pretty sure that you’re going back to his place for a quick hook-up, it makes sense that you meet up initially in a bar or somewhere public just to ensure that you’ve got an easy out if something doesn’t feel right.
Warning signs might include if he doesn’t match the photos that he sent you, or if he seems weirdly nervous or anxious. A one-off, random hook-up is not worth putting yourself in a vulnerable position.
Ask some questions
There’s been some reports in the media recently about guys who have been under the age of consent using dating apps to explore their sexuality.
If you think there’s any question that the guy that you’re meeting up with might have over-stated his age and might actually be under the age of consent where you are, it’s a smart move to ask to see some ID.
If he doesn’t want to show you his ID, you’ve probably got a problem and need to walk away.
Let your friends know
You could easily frame it as a #HumbleBrag, but if you’re meeting up with someone new it’s common sense to let someone know what you’re doing.
You don’t have to share all the specifics if you don’t want to, but a quick text to let someone know that you’re heading out to meet a guy is a smart idea.
Try and give the friend you’re notifying any relevant information about the guy that you’re meeting. You may not know his name, but you do know which app you met him on, where you’re meeting him, and when you expect to be checking back in with your friend to confirm that everything went okay.
Don’t be afraid to walk away
You’re under no obligation to meet up with anyone that you’ve been chatting with online. If they’re trying to bully you into anything, just end the conversation. If you get there and things feel a bit weird, simply make your excuses and leave. There’s no shame in that, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about – it’s a smart move.
When you’re horny and you’re keen for some action, it’s easy to make choices that are perhaps more risky than you’d normally make. Try and take things slowly. Try and avoid any drugs or alcohol that might cloud your judgement or ability to consent. If you’re unsure about something, take a time-out and go to the bathroom to text or call a friend.
You don’t owe an anonymous hook-up anything. No one is going to think less of you for opting out of a hook-up if it doesn’t feel right. Put your safety first.
Report any problems
There might be reasons why you don’t want to get the police involved if you’ve had a hook-up that’s gone wrong. But if you can, it’s a good idea to file a report with the police. If you’ve been robbed, if you’ve been assaulted, if you met up with someone and they set off alarm bells – filing a complaint with the police not only empowers you to take control of that situation but could potentially help other people who might also be potential victims.
Some of the most high profile crimes against queer guys using hook-up apps involve a repeated pattern of behaviour – if someone has tried to take advantage of you, they’ll have done it before and they’ll be looking to do it again.
Case study: Over 190 men were victims of the UK’s most prolific rapist
Following his conviction at trial, police have now released details of the UK’s most prolific rapist and the shocking extent of the sexual assaults he perpetrated against unsuspecting men.
Reynhard Sinaga has been convicted of 159 sex offences and sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in jail. While the convictions relate to 48 separate victims, police believe that as many as 190 men may have been targeted by the 36-year-old post-graduate student.
The offences took place in Manchester – one of the UK’s largest cities. According to evidence presented at the trial, Sinaga waited for men outside nightclubs, lured them back to his flat – with the offer of somewhere to have a drink or call a taxi – and then drugged and assaulted them while they were unconscious. When the victims woke up, many of them had no memory of what had happened. Sinaga filmed the attacks.
Sinaga carried out his attacks over several years. He was caught in June 2017 when one victim, who regained consciousness while being assaulted, fought Sinaga off and called the police.
“His extreme sense of sexual entitlement almost defies belief and he would no doubt still be adding to his staggering tally had he not been caught…” said Ian Rushton, from the Crown Prosecution Service – speaking to the BBC. Rushton went on to add that he thought that Sinaga took “a particular pleasure in preying on heterosexual men”.
When officers seized Sinaga’s phone they found he had filmed each of his attacks – amounting to hundreds of hours of footage. The discovery led to the launch of the largest rape inquiry in British history.
Sinaga denied the charges, claiming that all the sexual activity was consensual and that each man had agreed to being filmed while pretending to be asleep.
Sinaga’s trials took place across 18 months at Manchester Crown Court, resulting in unanimous guilty verdicts on all charges.
“We suspect he’s offended over a period of 10 years…” explained Assistant Chief Constable Mabbs Hussain. “The information and evidence we are going from is largely from trophies that he’s collected from the victims of his crimes.”
Investigators traced dozens of victims from the videos using clues found in Sinaga’s Manchester flat, such as stolen phones, ID cards and watches. Detectives say they have been unable to identify 70 victims.