Many of us may be hitting online dating sites more aggressively now that Valentine's- Day is looming, but desperation isn’t pretty. Worse yet, it can be humiliating. Perhaps by now you've shaken your head and thought, "I'd never make Manti Te'o's mistake."
But if that were really true, MTV's "Catfish"— the show that exposes people who create fake online dating profiles — would be struggling for content. Instead, the show was picked up in December for a second season.
"In the dating world, we see lots of scams now," said Dave Evans, editor of OnlineDatingPost.com. "One person can create 5,000 to 10,000 profiles, because most of it's automated."
So how can users avoid getting snookered? Here are three easy ways to tell if that unbelievably awesome person's online profile is a fake.
1. Drag and drop
Take whatever images this person has provided and drag and drop them into Google Images page (images.google.com). This search will lead you down one of three trails. Firstly, you might plug in the photo and discover it belongs to someone else — say, an attractive but lesser-known actor or model. In this case, suspend all contact.Or the photo might pull up Web links like a LinkedIn profile, where you’ll learn he or she is exactly as reported. In this case, date on! Then again, you might find nothing but a slew of similar images, which will be totally inconclusive.
This isn’t necessarily bad. But in case your mouth-breathing, fake-profile-creating, couch spud has already thought of this trick and found a difficult-to-trace image, you’ll want to move on to the next test.
2. Do some sleuthing
In the case of Te'o, "Nobody did enough of their homework," Evans said. "We throw off social exhaust all day long — Foursquare check-ins, Facebook posts, Spotify playlists, forums and groups that we belong to, and so on … it's easy to Google somebody these days." Also, check your new friend's Facebook profile. If there isn't one, that's a red flag. If the profile has fewer than 100 friends, another red flag. If they aren't giving enough information to search LinkedIn or Facebook, ask why.
Not providing information that's verifiable online, is probably overly cautious, though not necessarily unreasonable. But this doesn't have to end your search. On DateRaters, you can plug in a screen name to see if anyone on the site has experienced and written about your potential mate. Women can also post concerns on DontDateHimGirl to get advice on how to handle dating woes as they come up.
Most suspicious of all is the shadowy trail. If your new crush's scanty online dating profile matches marginally active profiles on other sites, there's only one thing to do.
3. Communicate in person
Sure, there's not enough time for a face-to-face with everyone you meet online, but if you're starting to invest emotional energy, it's mandatory. Start with the phone; it's amazing how much weeding out this can do. But many people aren't comfortable talking on the phone anymore, and a call can't verify looks. If this "person" can't find a computer with a camera for Skyping or gas or subway money for meeting up, you are wasting your time. (Some dating sites even have video chat capabilities built in.)