Fake profiles and chat bots were the most frustrating part of using Tinder when I compared it to its competitors. They're everywhere, trying to sell you something or steal your personal information, trick you into downloading malware or even beg you to send money. If you just want to swipe in peace, here's what you should look out for. Illustration by Sam Woolley.
Their Profile Is Missing a Bio, Occupation or Other Basic Information
Tinder doesn't give users a ton of space to write about themselves, but it's enough to describe your personality and maybe make a joke. If the person you matched with doesn't have anything at all written in their bio section, that's a red flag. The same goes for their occupation and school listing. If all you see in their profile is Tinder photos, proceed with caution. That said, Tinder also lets you link your Instagram account to share photos, and that's a feature many people use. While a photo-only account shouldn't be the main thing you judge a profile on, a profile without a linked Instagram can be a red flag as well.
Also look out for weird links in their bio. Some profiles will have a link with a shortened URL and a teasing line like "If you want to learn more about me" or "check out my website." Leave those links alone. They probably lead to some weird, and often harmful, places.
They Only Have One Photo
If having a profile that's nothing but photos is a big red flag, so is only having one photo, especially if there's no other information in their bio. If that one photo looks professionally done, you should hear alarm bells. Sam Weiner and Maritsa Patrinos at Buzzfeed also suggest you be on the lookout for profiles with obviously photoshopped photos, photos of celebrities and profiles that seem to have multiple photos of different people. In short, anything that makes it difficult to believe they're the person in the photo? Avoid it.
They Reply to Your Messages Super Fast
You swipe right for someone you like who has a profile that seems to be in order, you match with them a few moments later and they send you a message almost immediately. You might be thinking "Great! This is working out perfectly," but it's actually an odd sign. Our own Spandas Lui suggests you pay close attention to how quickly your matches respond to your messages. If they seem to respond to you instantaneously -- we mean faster than people can normally type -- they're probably a bot designed to strike while the iron's hot and lower your guard so they can draw out personal information or scam you into clicking a link that will lead to malware or something worse.
They Respond to Your Messages With Nonsense
Not all chat bots are created equal. Satnam Narang, a senior security response manager at Symantec, explains that bots are getting smarter with their timing. Some vary their response times from 10 to 45 minutes so you can't always tell they're a bot that's following a script. That's why Andy O'Donnell at About.com recommends you watch for generic responses, nonsensical phrasing and misspelled words.
If it seems like they don't answer your questions directly or they constantly change the subject, that should tip you off. When it comes to spelling, some typos here and there are OK, but watch out for frequent misspellings or phrases that aren't even readable. For example, a message like "hayy imm borred do yoau likke choclate" is a red flag. If you still aren't sure, Robert Epstein, a psychologist and expert on artificial intelligence, suggests you type random letters like "asdkf skdjfslkdjflk" in your next message. If they respond to it like you're totally normal and carry on the conversation, it's probably a bot. If they ask you what the hell you're talking about, just say it was an accident and carry on.
They Want to Move the Conversation Off Tinder Immediately
Any Tinder user who asks you to move the conversation off Tinder before you've had a chance to talk and actually connect is a huge red flag. Lui suggests you look out for people asking you to text them immediately because they're "leaving Tinder" or "just hate using the app". Some people legitimately hate it, sure, but if they give you their phone number right off the bat, check the area code to see if it even matches your area. If it doesn't, ask them why. And keep your number to yourself if they ask you for it. Texting them or giving them your number will most likely lead to a neverending stream of spam texts and robocalls.
Also, don't bother with people asking you to join them on some other social network, especially if you've never heard of the site. They're just trying to scam you into signing up for the network, or they're phishing for your personal information. Frankly, avoid anyone that asks you for too much, like your home address, email address or anything way more personal than is warranted for that first contact.
They Seem Too Good to Be True
At the end of the day, if a user seems too good to be true, they probably are. If you see a profile filled with nothing but glamour shots, and a bio that makes them sound like the perfect partner, hit the brakes. When you look at matches and you start wondering to yourself why the bikini model or the guy with the swimmer's abs is into you, re-assess things before you start messaging them. We're not saying it's not possible, we're just saying be careful.
In the same vein, watch out for profiles that are clearly just meant for self-promotion. If they have great pics and a clever description about themselves, but they also share all of their social media accounts or streaming channels and ask you to follow them in the same bio, give them the ol' swipe left. Follow your heart, but let your brain make the decisions -- you're probably not going to get a celeb looking to promote themselves on Tinder to go out with you.
How to Report Fake Profiles
Tinder tries to crack down on fake profiles, but it helps if you take the time to report the worst offenders. If you think a profile you matched with is fake, here's how to report it:
- Head to your matches by tapping the chat bubble symbol in the upper right corner.
- Select the fake profile you want to report.
- Tap the three dots in the upper right corner.
- Select "Report [their name]" and tap "Feels Like Spam".
This will unmatch them and get them out of your hair, and also let Tinder know they're up to no good so others won't have to worry about them either.