If it weren’t for online dating, most of my generation would be single. Tinder, OKCupid, Plenty of Fish are all standard apps you'd expect to see on a single person’s smartphone. Subscriptions to dating sites are no longer taboo. Now, having your own ‘oh, we met on the internet’ story is just as romantic as meeting IRL (in real life). And perhaps, in 2017, the same goes for much of mature dating too, with sites such asOurtime, eHarmony and our own Telegraph Dating proving a hit with older daters.
But online dating is still a relatively fresh terrain for many. It means that newcomers are often unaware of some glaring pitfalls.
Only this week, an Arizona man was arrested for scamming women out of thousands of dollars after posing as a stockbroker online, and last week West Sussex County Council released a warning to residents about scams online in the UK. Though online dating can be a safe and regulated environment if used with care, there are still multiple cases of scamming and catfishing that make the news on a regular basis.
This fraud is becoming more and more common. And there are ways we can all be tricked - even those who think they're clued up about online dating. My friends tell stories of guys who ended up already having girlfriends, and - the most common - those who promise relationships, but leave after just one night.
So what are the signs you should look out for? Here are some clues to help you avoid online dating trickery. If the guy you like is guilty of any of these, they're probably not to be trusted.
1) He calls you ‘baby’
If you meet someone online and within a few messages they’re telling you how much you mean to them, and how they love you to bits: stay away. This is not a modern day version of love at first sight (of your profile pic) – it’s a sign that they’re a bit of a creep.
You might be thinking that there's a chance you have a real connection. But if that’s really the case, it won't be because of their fake flattery and hyperbole. In simple terms, when they start saying, “Since you came into my life baby, I have looked forward to each sunshine” - as the fake ‘James Richards’ did - you should think again.
2) His profile pic looks a lot like Kit Harington
This is not a miracle – you have not found a younger, real version of Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. Instead, the person you’re messaging has just stolen a picture off the internet of the most ‘normal’ looking celeb he could find.
If you’re in doubt, save the picture onto your computer and then drag it into Google. You can do an image search for it. And if he really does look like Harington? Nothing will come up bar his Facebook page.
3) He says he earns over £1m a year
Most dating sites have columns where you fill in your basic details and there is an option to put down your salary. Personally, I don’t trust anyone who fills this in at all. But you really need to be concerned when someone says they earn over a million a year. Especially if they then don’t offer any more info on what they do.
Sadly, they’re probably not a millionaire. If they were, they’d be doing anything to try and avoid strangers taking advantage of their wealth, or being judged because of it. They would not likely be holding a metaphorical sign saying ‘come and date me for my dollar’.
Oh, and if he ever asks you for money - say £170,000? Report him to the website.
4) He’s posing with a tiger
This is so common that it even sparked a Tumblr dedicated to ‘Tigers of Tinder’. The general idea is that we chicks dig travel and danger. So if a man wants to attract a girl, all he has to do is demonstrate that in his profile pic, right? And what better way to do it than with a tiger?
It does suggest that he’s trying to overcompensate. Why does he have to go to such (extreme) lengths to try to attract women? And doesn't he know he's part of a trend that everyone is laughing at?
5) He’s taking topless selfies
Anyone who uses a picture of their naked torso to advertise themselves as a potential mate is, in my book, not to be trusted – especially if it’s taken as a mirror selfie with the flash covering up their face. They might be hoping you’ll be so distracted by their abs you won’t notice.
Also, if he's prepared to post a half naked picture in the public domain - just imagine what you might be sent in private.
6) He can’t spell
This is not just me being a snob. As much as it irritates me if someone gets ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ wrong, it’s not the end of the world. What is, however, is if every single word they use is spelt incorrectly.
In this day and age we all have autocorrect on our phones, tablets and laptops. So why don't they? Why haven't they bothered to use it? What's wrong with them?!
Just look at 'James Richards'' spelling and grammar: "The early mourning with you in my arms, the midnight skies with us beneath a billion stars, moves me."
If that doesn't say it all, I don't know what does.