By now most people are aware of the common scams that are run on dating sites like Tinder, usually involving telltale signs like being sent a suspicious link or being contacted by a profile with no picture or information.
The majority of users know to ignore these glaringly obvious scamming attempts, but there are some profiles that are not so easy to spot.
This is because it isnâ€™t some automated bot messaging you, it is a real person who has worked hard to make their fake profile seem indistinguishable from any other potential date on Tinder.
Brendon McAlpine, an online description removalist who helps victims of image based abuse, told news.com.au that these profiles were carefully created to target their victims.
â€œThese people do their homework. They look into demographics to see what age groups are the ones using apps like Tinder so they can target the right people,â€ he said.
â€œThey match with someone and then next minute they have exchanged numbers or they are texting each other explicit photos and videos.
â€œThis goes with maybe a day or two of more grooming and then they suddenly say: â€˜Hey I want $500 or I am going to post this onlineâ€™.â€
It is a cautionary tale that you have probably heard before, but the reality is that Australians are having their lives turned upside down every day by this type of scam.
One in five Australians have experienced imaged based abuse before, with men and women equally likely to report being a victim, according research from RMIT University
Unfortunately, there is no easy way out of this blackmailing scam once you are in it and paying the money is likely to just escalate the situation.
â€œThere are hundreds, probably even thousands, of Australians who have gone on to pay this money and they are still getting blackmailed,â€ Mr McAlpine said.
â€œWhat would you do if you if a person sent you money not to release their image? You would keep asking them for more money.â€
Mr McAlpine works for Internet Removals , which helps the victims of these types of scams, and advises people who find themselves in these situations to get in contact with them straight away.
â€œWhat we then do is monitor google and social media with key search words to see if any of the description goes up. Once it is up then we can contact the platform and get it taken down quickly,â€ he said.
Tinder does have warnings in place for users, telling them to look out for people using fake profiles in order to extort money from people.
â€œNever respond to any request to send money, especially overseas or via wire transfer, and report it to us immediately,â€ their website advises.
The best way to ensure this doesnâ€™t happen to you is to not send explicit pictures of yourself but, in the modern world of online dating, you canâ€™t really expect that from people â€” so there are other measures you can take.
â€œI have a saying: Never put your head in an explicit photo,â€ Mr McAlpine said.
â€œIf they donâ€™t put their face in the photo then blackmailer really has no leg to stand on because they canâ€™t prove it is you.â€
HOW TO SPOT FAKE PROFILES
While at first glance these profiles may seem like any other, there are a few things you can do to really check if they are legit:
– Check to see if they have other social media accounts and that their pictures match up.
– If a profile seems to good to be true then it probably is.
– If they immediately start off by talking negatively about their money situation. This is a tactic used to manipulate victims into given them money before they have leverage like nude pictures.
– If you are talking with someone and you think they may be one of these scammers then there are a few easy questions you can ask to find out.
â€œI was dealing with one woman who wasnâ€™t sure if the person she was talking to was legit so I told her to ask him about how the weather is,â€ Mr McAlpine said.
â€œThese people are often posing as someone supposedly in your area so it if it is a really cloudy rainy day you say to them: â€˜Oh how nice and sunny is the weather?â€™ and if they agree with you when you know they are lying.â€
He also said that asking about different cafes and restaurant in the area is another way to know if they are actually who they say they are, or asking them to Skype so you can see each other while you are talking.
Mr McAlpine advises that, above all, always go with your gut feeling and if you do find yourself caught out by one of these scams, donâ€™t panic because there are people that can help.
â€œA common thing people say to us is that it was just nice speaking to someone who can assure them that this is not the end of the world and there are things that can be done,â€ he said.