7 red flags to look out for before you say yes to meeting your dating app bae

As technology continues to make it difficult to suss out catfishes and scammers, an expert weighs in on seven key signs to ratting them out

As dating app usage goes up during the month of love, experts warn against falling for high-tech scammers.
As dating app usage goes up during the month of love, experts warn against falling for high-tech scammers.
Image: 123RF/Igor Sapozhkov

While February is often synonymous with the romance of Valentine’s Day, it is also when romance scams reach their peak. Aiming to deceive unsuspecting victims and steal more than just their hearts.

Fortinet regional director Doros Hadjizenonos says fraudsters target users of social media and dating apps in growing numbers during this time through multiple schemes by creating fake profiles to interact with users, build relationships and even manipulate them to extract money.

While they don't discriminate against their victims from all walks of life and different ages, researchers at Georgia State University found that scammers often target people who are newly single, wealthy or inexperienced with using online platforms. 

Hadjizenonos notes that technology is helping romance scammers become even more sophisticated by using deepfakes for photos, voice calls and videos. In addition, they seduce victims with letters or poems written by GenAI like ChatGPT. The cybersecurity specialist believes AI could be used by social media platforms and dating sites to help reduce the risk to their users.

Doros Hadjizenonos, regional sales director at Fortinet.
Doros Hadjizenonos, regional sales director at Fortinet.
Image: Supplied

“AI-enabled analytics can be used to pick up patterns in chats and raise alerts – without compromising individual users’ privacy,” he says, adding that the most important measure to protect users against romance scams is awareness.

“People need to be very cautious online. They should think twice about sharing personal information, sending people money or private photos, or entertaining offers related to get-rich-quick schemes. They should also make use of the platform’s privacy settings and research their love interest’s social media footprint — if there’s no history and just one photo, this should be a red flag,” he says. “Scammers often steal other people’s profile pictures, so a reverse image search may indicate whether the new contact is who they say they are.”

Fortinet has highlighted several warning signs that individuals should be mindful of when engaging with a potential romantic partner online. Though it might not be safe, Hadjizenonos says they should “remain open to the magic of finding love this Valentine’s Day, but remember to tread carefully and stay vigilant. It’s crucial not to let romance cloud your judgment.”

  • Love bombing: rapid declarations of love, discussions of marriage, and excessive flattery.
  • Distance: persistent excuses for being unable to meet in person, such as remote work locations, living in another country, military postings or frequent travel, along with a reluctance to engage in phone or video calls.
  • Requests for money: initial small requests that gradually escalate to larger sums.
  • Unsolicited investment advice: claims of being a skilled investor and promises to help make easy money.
  • Drama: seeking urgent financial assistance under the pretence of a medical emergency, accident, arrest or other unforeseen events, often accompanied by a plausible explanation for their inability to access their funds.
  • Requests for explicit photos: seeking private photos that could be exploited for extortion.
  • Inconsistencies in communication style: multiple scammers taking turns to manipulate the victim.


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