Tinder

You'd think Tinder's biggest audience would be hopeless romantics, and you might be right.

But there's another audience out in cyberspace that's all in on the location-based mobile dating app, too - scammers and fraudsters.

Make no mistake, Tinder scams stemming from fraudulent activity are the real deal, and the risk of a Tinder member walking away with a compromised identity instead of a date at the local bistro Saturday night are very real.

Due to the company's burgeoning online presence, more and more scammers are setting their sights on Tinder as a way to swipe users' personal date instead of swiping right or left.

That's not exactly a surprise given that the Tinder app is available in 196 countries, and gets, on average, 1.6 billion swipes a day from among its 50 million users. The site also claims it has potentially 20 billion "date matches" and gets users one million dates per week.

The company, founded in 2011, also does a good job of collecting repeat customers, giving online fraudsters another bone to chew on. According to Tinder, the average user logs on to the dating site a whopping 11 times a day, giving scammers repeated opportunities to engage and defraud Tinder users.

5 Most Pervasive Tinder Scams

That's unfortunate, as nobody should go online looking for a romantic partner and walk away from the experience with their identity compromised or as the victim of financial fraud or theft.

The good news is that Tinder scammers, whether they're purporting to be someone they're not in order to steal money from users or they're identity theft artists looking for personal data, do come with "red flags" that warn Tinder users to log off and walk away.

Let's examine the most common schemes perpetrated by fraud artists on Tinder and examine some ways users can protect themselves while engaging with strangers online on a regular basis.

1. The Catfishing Scam

A common Tinder scamming technique is for a fraudster to engage with a site user on Tinder, then try to entice the user to get off Tinder and re-engage via email or phone call.

A scammer has several advantages with this gambit (also known as a "catfishing scam").

First, they can say they only have temporary access to Tinder due to a promotional discount, and can only connect outside of Tinder afterward. It's much easier to lift personal data or steal from an individual via phone, email, or in person outside the cocoon of a dating site with security standards and tough data encryption configurations, a process it toughened in 2018 after complaints from data security advocates and members of Congress.

Additionally, once you step away from the security standards issued by Tinder, and start using other communication tools, like email, text or phone, you're operating on a date fraudster's preferred turf, where they can more easily pry the information they need from you to start digging into your personal data, which could lead to identity theft.

If you're engaging with someone on Tinder, or an any dating site, and the subject of getting offline right away arises, treat it as a red flag and either cut the communication off altogether, or proceed with extreme caution.

2. The Malware Scam

Malware is a common threat online, especially on dating sites. On Tinder, for example, a match may have had several exchanges with you, and wind up offering more information on their personal web page or even fake Facebook (FB - Get Report) or Instagram post.

These pages aren't legitimate, however. Instead, you're being steered to a web page chock full of malware and spam that can lead to scammers making off with your valuable personal data, and once again lead directly to identity theft and financial fraud.

Be particularly careful if a Tinder match asks you to meet up on or visit another site, especially if the request seems fishy in the first place. There's a decent chance you're being set up for fraud.

3. The Photo Scam

Similar to the scams listed above, this tactic appeals to the emotional side of a Tinder user. He (and this one usually is a "he") is physically attracted to a woman's profile on Tinder and is amenable to sending his contact info in exchange for more (and racier) photos of the scammer.

The Tinder user could regret that move, as the Tinder profile could really be someone fishing for personal data, or even a fraudulent "bot" operation that leverages emotion and excitement, through the offer of more revealing photos, to gain access to a site user's personal data, which they can use to commit financial fraud.

If you're on Tinder, and are offered more photos from a profile engagement in exchange for personal data (especially critical data like Social Security or credit card numbers), pull the plug. It's likely a scammer on the other end of the engagement.

4. The Code Verification Scam

Often, Tinder scams have nothing to do with individuals, real or bot-related, that connect with users on the site.

That's the case with the Tinder account verification scam. Here, the scam involves an email or even text asking you to verify your Tinder account. The message may include a line or two about Tinder updating its records and asking you to verify your account. In other instances, an online Tinder "match" may ask you to verify before engaging in any future communication.

In the above instances, the scammer will try to steer you to a third-party link to verify your account. Once on the link, you'll be asked for key personal data like your name, address, phone number, email, Social Security number, your birth date, and even your bank account or credit card number.

While Tinder does include verified accounts, it's done in-house at Tinder. Also note that Tinder verification is rarely used for average users - it's usually targeted toward celebrities and influencers, so Tinder can confirm their identity.

It's also worth noting that you can identify a Tinder bot right away.

Tinder users will rarely contact you and ask you to click on any links. Another way to reveal a Tinder bot is if your message to the contact is returned right away - almost too fast. That's a sign the contact is of the digital variety, and not the flesh-and-blood variety, and should be avoided entirely.

5. The Tinder Blackmail Scam

Old-fashioned blackmail has a new life in the digital age, and dating sites are a favorite blackmailing platform for fraudsters.

In this case, blackmail can work in various and nefarious ways.

One gambit is to procure nude or otherwise compromising photos of a Tinder user, then use that photo as leverage - if you don't agree to transmit money to the fraud artist, he or she will threaten to post the photos online. That could lead to any one of negative outcomes for the target, including loss or job or public position, or interference with the target's family life (think a divorced dad getting back into the dating scene or a married individual who shouldn't be on a dating site, but does so anyway.)

Never, ever send compromising images of yourself to a stranger on Tinder, or to any stranger, for that matter. End of story.

What to Do if You Think You've Been Compromised

If you suspect you're engaging with a Tinder match who doesn't seem to be on the up and up, don't continue to engage with the contact any longer. If it's a bot, any direct response is an invitation to draw more information out of you and that scenario should be avoided.

If it's a real person, he or she may appeal to your human emotions and hang on to the connection as long as possible, in order to also siphon as much personal data out of you as possible.

Instead, close down the engagement right away and contact Tinder directly and let them know there's a problem. The site security experts will take it from there.

If you've actually been defrauded on Tinder, or on any dating site, let law enforcement officials know immediately.

Report any identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission's ID Theft Reporting website IdentityTheft.gov and file a complaint. Agency staffers will review your report and steer you to the correct recovery resources.

After you issue a fraud complaint with FTC, you'll soon receive an Identity Theft Victim's Complain and Affidavit. Use that document to file a police report to accompany your identity theft affidavit. Make sure to secure the theft case number and ask for a copy of the police report.

Do that, and you'll possess the necessary documentation to share with any creditors you contact to try and recoup money lost in a financial fraud or identity theft scenario.