Online dating safety tips: 5 ways to spot a scammer

Coffee Meets Bagel
6 min readOct 11, 2023

A note from Jenny, head of customer experience at Coffee Meets Bagel

Finding a good date used to be at the top of my “things I dread” list, right after public speaking and queuing at the bank. So, when apps like Coffee Meets Bagel came onto the scene, I was beyond relieved. I didn’t have to frequent loud bars, or try to recreate that rom-com scene where the woman bumps into a hunk at a supermarket and the 99-cent-oranges display goes flying.

But while coming across a good date got easier, so did coming across a less savory type: scammers.

Now as the head of customer experience at Coffee Meets Bagel, I’ve heard the happily-ever-after stories and the I-fell-for-a-scam stories. And while CMB does have technology in place to prevent scammers from joining in the first place, we can’t catch all of them by ourselves (yet).

So before you can star in your own dating app success story, check out my tips on how to stay safe.

Quick Online Dating Safety Tips

Buckle up! Safety, first. Before we hop into the five signs your match might be a scammer, check out these quick tips.

  • Never make financial moves with someone you meet online. That means not sending money, gift cards, or account info — as well as believing investment advice or “get rich quick” claims.
  • Keep your exact workplace and address a secret until you’ve met in person and have built trust over time. (Some experts advise also keeping your last name private until after your first date.)
  • Tell your friends or family about when & where you’re meeting a match for the first time. Provide your own transportation, and always meet in a safe, public place, such as a coffee shop.

And, most importantly, if you ever feel uncomfortable or harassed when chatting with a match, stop talking to them and report them on the app. Then, block them from other messaging services if applicable. If you’re already on a date, leave immediately. Dating should never feel scary.

Signs Your Match Might Be a Scammer

Now that we’ve taken care of the crucial safety tips, you’re all set! Well, almost. I want you to spend time on matches who matter on CMB, not scammers. Here’s how to spot if your match is a scammer before you get involved.

They Go From 0–100

Oftentimes, scammers use artful tactics to try to sweep you off your feet. They might shower you with compliments or use flowery, romantic language right off the bat. They might give you a wholesome Disney-esque monologue about how they’re “just looking for love,” and “U the one 4 me, babe.” But I know you’re smarter than that, so you’ll see your match moving too fast as a red flag.

Another red flag: They’ll want to take things off the app and start texting, calling, or using other messaging apps (such as Kik, WhatsApp, or WeChat) ASAP. To cut to the chase, they may even include this contact info in their bio.

One thing to note: Scammers nowadays are extra sneaky. So while they might sweep you off of your feet quickly to gain your trust, they could wait a bit before actually trying to pull off their scam. This is especially popular in cryptocurrency dating scams, so be wary of the long game.

Their stories pull on your heartstrings

Gone are the days when all scammers were Nigerian princes. Nowadays, they’re architects, oil-rig engineers, geologists, make-up artists, nurses, and more. But one of the most common careers scammers claim to have is that of a soldier or any career related to the military. And oftentimes they are oh-so-conveniently stationed far overseas where they can’t meet you in person.

But their real job title? A sly scammer. They may even claim to be religious (a tactic used for inspiring trust), or tell you a sob story: they’re a recent widow and their partner has passed in a tragic accident. Or, perhaps they have a sick child or parent they care for. While these unfortunate circumstances may be true for a small portion of singles involved in online dating, one of the telltale signs you’ve matched with a scammer doesn’t come until later — when they ask for your money.

They’re just too good to be true

If your match has profile photos that belong in a magazine catalog, you’ve either met a model or a scammer. And while both exist in real life (models aren’t Bigfoot, after all), it would be very unlikely for a real person not to have any casual, non-professional photos in their profile pic lineup.

Take note of other profile/photo inconsistencies. For example, if their profile says they’re 32, but they look only 22 in their picture, that’s a red flag. Likewise, if their profile claims they have a high level of education, but their grammar is disjointed, something might be up.

On top of conflicting photos, the person in question could be everything you’re looking for. You share all of the same values, never disagree, the conversation is always flowing — they’re basically a match made in heaven. After a few weeks, they might start using pet names for you or even profess their love. Remember what we talked about: If they get too lovey too quickly, it’s a red flag.

Meeting in person isn’t an option

We know that the most meaningful connections happen face-to-face, so on Coffee Meets Bagel, we encourage members to meet in person. So if your match isn’t keen on meeting in real life or over video chat, you should raise an eyebrow.

One of the most common excuses scammers use to avoid meeting in person is claiming that they work abroad. Some scammers will dodge video chats and phone calls by claiming to be “too shy” or because they’re dealing with trust issues from past relationships. But if you’ve been talking to someone for days (or weeks) and haven’t taken these steps, that should set off alarm bells.

In situations like this, fact-checking is your friend. Try running a Google reverse image search to check if they have multiple profiles under different names or with different info. Some scammers may also steal photos from influencers, low-profile celebrities, or stock sources.

They ask for money, gift cards, or account info

Lastly, and most importantly, if your match asks you for money, gift cards, or your account information, stop all communication immediately. It is extremely likely this person is a scammer.

But, it isn’t always clear right away. Many scammers will play the long game by trying to build trust with you over time. Then, suddenly, there’s an “emergency,” and they need money quickly. Here’s a few types of fake emergencies they may claim to have:

  1. They were robbed and need money
  2. They have to book a last-minute business trip
  3. They need a loan
  4. They or their family member has a medical emergency

Sometimes, scammers may also ask for gift cards, such as an iTunes gift card. But, you should never trust a match who claims they need anything from you but your time and words, even if they promise to pay you back.

Another way a scammer might try to steal from you is less direct: by gaining access to your accounts. While some may directly ask you for your account info, routing numbers, social security number, or driver’s license info, others may be more sneaky.

If your match asks you strangely specific personal questions about old addresses, your pets’ names, or schools you’ve attended, be cautious. They could be trying to gain access to your accounts by resetting your passwords via security question answers.

A final reminder: Even if someone doesn’t directly ask you for money or personal information, matches who spend a lot of time talking up investments, cryptocurrency, or finances should be viewed as suspicious.

A common trick with these investment scammers is to present themselves as super-wealthy. They’ll talk about deals that are too good to be true — all you have to do is try out their plan. So while you might think you’re not directly sending anyone money, you could still get scammed by third-party sites.

How to Report a Match on CMB

If you think you’ve come across or matched with a scammer, or if your match has violated our terms of service, please report them. By reporting a scammer, you’re preventing them from scamming other lovely bagels on our app in the future.

To report a bagel in Suggested or Discover, simply tap on the flag icon in their profile.