Profiling online dating scammers and victims


There are ways to spot potential online dating scammers and learn if you fit the typical victim profile.

It’s difficult to develop a profile for catfishers themselves since their motivations vary dramatically. Most online dating fraudsters are from West Africa and South Africa, though that can be impossible to determine online. Instead, look for the red flags in online profiles that are typical of both. 

Most fake male profiles are of a distinguished looking widower, with a child, who is a professional or owns their own business. Most fake female profiles are of an extremely attractive young woman who is either a student or a nurse or teacher. 

Victims of catfishing and financial scams come in all shapes and sizes. Young men are targets of catfishing as often as older women. Online scammers, on the other hand, tend to focus on older individuals.

While some suggest this is because older individuals are less suspicious of online information, it’s just as likely that older individuals are targeted because they have more money than younger individuals.

Psychologists have identified a number of risk factors which, taken together, sketch the profile of a potential online dating scam victim. 

  • First, individuals with a higher tendency toward idealization of romantic partners are more at risk.
  • Second, individuals who describe themselves as lonely are more apt to be scammed.
  • That accounts for the third risk factor: being widowed. Scammers know that widows and widowers are potentially lonely and may have received an estate.
  • Fourth, people who describe themselves as trusting are more likely to be conned.
  • A history of being in abusive relationships is the fifth risk factor.
  • Finally, individuals who have fallen in love quickly in the past are at risk for being scammed by a catfisher or financial fraudster.

Having one of more of these risk factors doesn’t mean you should avoid online dating. It means you should proceed with your eyes open and understand the world you’re entering.

Online romances are often hyper personal, stronger and more intimate than real world relationships, because they lack the distractions of face to face interaction. People create idealized images of their partner that are more trusted than a real self might be.