What’s wrong with seeking love on the Internet? Online dating has been around for awhile now and, not coincidentally, so have the horror stories about scammers exploiting seekers of love and companionship. Scammers have targeted love-seekers for as long as people have been seeking love……was the Bible’s serpent a scammer? Perhaps. The FBI warns about online dating scams…..but not about serpents. However, there may be another disloyalty lurking in the online daters’ grass — the dating sites themselves.
It turns out that they have been more unfaithful than those pesky online scammers. So if you use Zoosk, Match, eHarmony, Plentyoffish, Hinge, Tinder, Blendr, Okcupid, The League Grindr or others, you’ll still need to be alert to potential exploiters and scammers. But the introduction of AI and bots into dating sites has created a world were many, if not most, of the people with whom you interact are likely to not exist. Dating site business models have evolved into information mining companies. Under the cloak of “matching” people, these sites are actually getting information from you and about you — and then selling it. That’s how they make their money — at your expense.
The term you’ll need to learn about if you use any dating sites is catphisher. This is a person (or company) that manipulates you into send money or giving up personal information, usually by impersonating someone else. Catphishing is rampant on dating sites — and we’ve found that the catphishers are often fake personnas created by the dating sites themselves.
Recently, we took a close look at a number of “dating sites” that extract information from you using fake matches. These dating sites include BeNaughty, WildMeets, ClickandFlirt, Flinghub, Horny Contacts, Maturetenders, EbonyFlirt and others that are run by a Bulgarian company called Stolichnaq LTD. These sites are all engaging in information mining through the use of bots and fake identities. You don’t have to take our word for it, check out the customer reviews. Even the Better Business Bureau has warned about on these Stolichnaq scam sites.
Below, we’ll explain how to spot the fakes and what to do if you’ve been ripped-off by one the the Stolichnaq dating scam sites.
How to Spot a Catphisher
We’ve figured out some of the tell-tale signs of a catphisher on the Stolichnaq scam sites. They include:
- Numbers following names of the handles assigned to the dater.
- Use of emoticons in the messages
- Unresponsiveness to questions posed.
- Unduly suggestive statements right off the bat, before you’ve exchanged much information
- Profiles accompanied by classy, professional looking pictures, often of people taking a selfie.
- You are contacted by a dater through chat but when you check your notifications, you’ll see that the person didn’t review your profile
- When you ask the alleged dater in which neighborhood they live in the city listed in their profile. They can rarely answer that question.
- If you ask a question about current events, they’ll change the topic or won’t respond.
If you discover any of these tell-tale signs, then immediately end the correpondence and move on. You’ve been catphished!
Other Ways to Protect Yourself on Their Dating Sites
As we’ve stated above, we do not recommend you use ANY of the Stolichnaq-owned dating sites. They are dishonestly promising matches, but really just using fake bots to extract your personal information AND exposing you to hordes of scammers. In regards to the scammers on these sites, here are some important tips:
Stay in Site
Online dating sites have the ability to monitor and boot members who exhibit problematic behavior or are perpetrating scams, so scammers often try to get their marks off of the website on which they met. The most common excuse as to why they shouldn’t continue to communicate via the website is”My membership on this site is almost up” or “How about if we text or communicate though our personal phone/email/text?” They do this so that they can’t be ferreted out by the website operators. Moving off-site before launching a scam also reduces the chance that you’ll report the crook to the relevant site. So, you’ve been warned.
If you do engage with someone you meet off of the site, they’ll likely give you a gmail account or Hangouts ID by which to contact them. If they do, first check out that email using SocialCatfish. This is a free reverse-directory search engine that will be very useful in identifying the scammer with whom you’ll be interacting.
Run, when money enters the scene
If any prospect offers to send you money and have you handle the banking in the U.S., or asks for money or involves you in any way with some financially-related scheme, run! Some prospects will string you along for weeks or months before asking you for money. Still run! Or if they concoct an emergency and ask you to wire money to them. Keep running! If you are asked to items, particularly electronics, and send them overseas, be very careful. Many companies won’t ship to scam-beleaguered countries, so scammers might use you as an unwitting fence by directing you to forward property they’ve bought with stolen cards.
Spelling and grammar are now, finally, important
You may have ignored spelling and grammar in school, but don’t ignore it if you are in the dating world. If your prospect has poor grammar and spelling, be careful. They may be using instant messaging or TTY services for the deaf to help mask their broken English. A line that sounds like it could be from someone in a far-off country but portraying themselves to be in your same city will usually have a local dialect misfire. If a profile indicates your match has a college degree, but he or she can’t string a sentence together, you have reason to be suspicious.
Love at first write
If your correspondent/date is claiming to have fallen in love with you in the first few hours/days, the alarm bells should be going off. Usually, they’ll claim a deep connection with you and parrot back to you all of the things that you mentioned in your profile or prior correspondence. If this person seems like the ideal mate you’ve described in your own dating desires, they are probably scammers. If you begin to receive some of the most beautiful poetry you’ve ever read, well, they probably ripped it off of the Internet.
Beware PopUps Touting Related Dating Sites
Another type of rip-off on the Stolichnaq dating sites are pop-ups promoting other related dating sites. If you click on one of these pop-ups, you’ll have agreed to be charged for membership and they’ll use the credit card you have on file to charge you $50 or more for a one-month membership. So avoid clicking on any of the pop-up promotions you find on a Stolichnaq dating site. For example, if you see a pop-up that looks like this:
If you like on the submit button, you’ll be accepting membership and authorizing the company to charge your credit card. That’s just nasty and is best to be avoided.
Which are the best online dating services to use?
We don’t have a specific service to recommend to you. We do suggest that you use more than one and compare for yourself. If you want to compare there dating sites, check out the discussion at Lifehacker or Urbanette or other high end matchmaking services. Good rules of thumb are to date closer to home, keep emails to no more than three or four before moving to the phone. But nothing substitutes for an in-person meeting. Avoid fantasy relationship that will rip your heart in two unless that’s really all you are looking for. But ultimately, safe online dating happens if you are smart and honest…..and it helps if you know what you are looking for. There are lots of good people out there to date online. As many have said, “if you don’t know where you are headed, any road will get you there.”