How to Tell if You’re Chatting with an AI Bot or Online Scammer on Social Media or a Dating Site

How to Tell if You are Chatting with an AI Bot or Online Scammer on Social Media or a Dating Site
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While scammers on dating apps and social media have been around since, well, social media, with the rise of AI and AI bots and other bots the flood of scams has risen to tsunami levels. Here’s how to tell if you are chatting with a scammer or AI bot on social media or a dating site.

Scammers and Bots and AI, Oh My!

The odds are good that if you recognize the movie from which the above heading was derived, you are in the target sweet spot in terms of how old you are and being targeted by scammers, but nobody is immune, and this is particularly true for scammers on dating sites. This is because scammers employ social engineering to play on the heartstrings of lonely people.

Social engineering is defined by Crowdstrike as “cyberattacks that use psychological tactics to manipulate people into taking a desired action, like giving up confidential information. Social engineering attacks work because humans can be compelled to act by powerful motivations, such as money, love, and fear. Adversaries play on these characteristics by offering false opportunities to fulfill those desires.”

Another way that scammers employ social engineering is by playing on peoples’ sympathies. This is part of the reason that so many Facebook scammers pose as recently widowed men, throwing in military service as an extra measure to play on peoples’ sense of patriotism, in hopes of eliciting an “Oh my goodness, this poor man served his country and now he’s widowed” reaction. Sometimes for some reason, instead of military service, they will say that they are a “civil engineer”. Of course, that “poor man” is likely a man or woman sitting in their living room in a country such as Pakistan, Romania, or Nigeria, who is not widowed, not an American military veteran, and most certainly not your friend.

How to Tell if Someone is an Overseas Scammer and/or Using AI to Communicate with You

One of the telltale signs of a scammer is the way that their messages read. If they claim to be in your country, and are communicating with you in your own native language, and their syntax, grammar, or choice of words seems just a bit off, there is a good chance that they either are not from your country and your language is not their first language, or they are using AI, or both.

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Of course, not being from your country, or your language not being their first language, isn’t on its own a reason to suspect someone of being less than honest – it’s the coupling of them representing that they are from your area along with the telltale signs that they are not that is suspect. This more often happens on dating sites and apps where the scammer is pretending to have a romantic interest in you.

Look at this image of an actual conversation recently taken from a dating site:

how to tell if you are chatting with a scammer or a bot on social media or a dating app or dating site

Notice how the first paragraph is nice and chatty, but seems a bit off. It sounds so nice, solicitous, and references a previous message by the other person, ending on a flirty note complete with emoji. It was, in fact, almost enough to pass muster, until you look at the bits that are the telltale signs, such as the mismatch of singulars and plurals (“project work are done”) and the poor grammar/punctuation (“outdoors on the project and tend to be more of a homebody”).

Having already determined that this person is quite likely a scammer, their target doesn’t respond to that message and, when their target doesn’t respond further, they send another message, resorting to what is that frequent telltale sign of a scammer, that they are a “civil engineer” and, yes, widowed.

Scammers, AI, and Bots on Facebook and Other Social Media

In our world the greatest number of scammers which get through on social media (by which we mean they aren’t caught by the platform’s algorithm, and so manage to get through to you) are on Facebook. So in addition to the general advice for detecting scammers, AI, and bots given above, it’s helpful to note the most common ways, as of the time of this writing, that a scammer on Facebook is trying to reel you in:

1. They will send a friend request to you out of the blue, and when you go to their profile to check them out before accepting the friend request (you do that always, right??) you see that they have very few friends, and that their timeline shows only very recent activity. That recent activity is usually their adding a profile picture and maybe a cover photo. They likely will have their relationship status set to ‘widowed’. Do not make the mistake of thinking that because they may have a few friends in common with you that that is an indicator of their being legitimate (there’s that social engineering again), it just means that you have some friends who are less careful than you!

2. They will go to a thread either on your profile page, or in which you have participated (commented) on a friend’s page, and tag you and say something designed to reel you in, such as inviting you to send them a friend request because “they don’t want to be so forward as sending you a friend request”, or clicking on a link.

How to Tell if You're Chatting with an AI Bot or Online Scammer on Social Media or a Dating Site


3. They will send you a private message on Facebook messenger suggesting that something horrible has happened to someone that may be one of your Facebook friends, with a link to the “story” to find out if it’s your friend (do NOT click on that link!) The scam may not be exactly this, but it will be similar.

Scammers on Dating Apps and Dating Sites

Dating app and dating site scammers have a ready-made pool of targets. By definition if someone is on a dating site they are making themselves at least a little vulnerable (in more ways than one), and so are in various stages of ripeness for the plucking. In addition to the above information about how to detect an online scammer (language, grammar, syntax, certain words, etc.), here are some things to look for on dating sites and dating apps.

1. They look too good in their pictures. This is actually one of the first things that should trigger your spidey-sense. Dating site scammers almost never put up their own pictures, they grab the pictures of someone who is very handsome or beautiful and use those. If you are up to it, grab a couple of their pictures and do a reverse image search on Google (that’s where you upload a picture and Google searches for other instances of the picture); at least 9 times out of 10 you will find it’s a picture of a model or some other well-known personality or, hey, just a really good-looking person who has an online presence. We once busted an online dating scammer who was using the images of a well-known sports coach. The scammers will take what they can get.

2. They don’t have their location listed in their dating profile.

3. They don’t have their age listed in their dating profile. This alone isn’t a sign, but taken with other signs can tip the scales; of course if they are insecure about or otherwise hiding their age you may want to consider whether that’s someone you want to date even if they are real.

Now of course, these are all generalizations, and it’s quite possible to meet someone online who may be exactly what they say, but if anything about what they’re putting out sets your spidey-sense a’tingling, take a closer look: it’s more likely that you’ll be thwarting a scammer than that you’ll be passing up the new love of your life.

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