Online Dating Bots

Online Dating

Online Dating Bots: What You Should Know Before You Swipe

Karen Belz

Written by: Karen Belz

Karen Belz

Over the last 10 years, Karen Belz has written for dating and lifestyle sites such as Zoosk, Bolde, and Elite Singles. She started her career as a professional writer by helping launch HelloGiggles in 2011. Karen graduated from Millersville University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Broadcasting with a minor in Print Media Studies. She is now happily married and believes that healthy communication is the key to all successful relationships. You can follow her on Threads @karenbelz.

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Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Reviewed by: Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks is the Editor-in-Chief at DatingAdvice.com. When she was growing up, her family teased her for being "boy crazy," but she preferred to think of herself as a budding dating and relationship expert. As an English major at the University of Florida, Amber honed her communication skills to write clearly, knowledgeably, and passionately about a variety of subjects. Now with over 1,800 lifestyle articles to her name, Amber brings her tireless wit and relatable experiences to DatingAdvice.com.

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If you’ve recently entered the world of online dating, you may have been warned about the possibility of online dating bots coming up in your search. 

While bots unfortunately do have a presence on many dating sites, they shouldn’t ruin the entire experience for you. Once you know what to look for, you’ll be well aware of how to identify a real account and avoid the fake profiles

Here’s what you need to know about the type of bots out there and what to do if you encounter one.

Definition | Risks | Warning Signs | Impact

Defining Online Dating Bots

Computer programmers create bots in hopes of getting online users to reveal sensitive security information or spend money. They aren’t just on dating sites — they’re all over the internet, from forums like Reddit to popular gaming sites.

Types of Bots

A 2022 report found that approximately 47% of the internet’s activity was derived from bots, and that number is expected to increase with the current advancements in AI. 

Forbes reported that the harmful bots that mimic human behavior were “highest in law and government at 78%, followed by entertainment at 71% and financial services at 67%.” 

That news may feel a bit overwhelming and make you wonder if anyone on the internet is trustworthy. But once you know how to spot a bot, they’ll be less of an inconvenience.

The Purpose

So, what do bots do? For the most part, they are deployed to gather information. 

Operated by computer programs, online bots aim to pass as genuine accounts in the dating scene. They interact with people and try to trick them into sending money, revealing banking information, or perhaps giving enough information to allow for guessing an unprotected password. 

Graphic with text displaying information about chatbots on dating apps
Let’s be honest: Scammer bots are the worst. Stay vigilant and protect yourself at all times.

Bots can accomplish this by chatting on a service or by sending malicious links that help mine data. 

Oftentimes, bots use the photos of a real person to help the profile have more of a human feel. Bots can also learn from you — every conversation is a chance to improve their communication methods.

Conversation Algorithms 

While many conversations with bots may feel a bit disjointed, chatbots can learn how to better hold a conversation through chatting with others online. 

They’re trained on basic commands and often mimic responses back. Companies use chatbots for baseline customer service, and these bots offer help through canned responses to prompts. 

Bots can be useful when programmed for good purposes. Unfortunately, online dating bots are often programmed to prey on vulnerable individuals who might share too much if they’re desperate for a conversation.

Adaptive Learning

The programming in bot dating profiles is geared toward learning as much about human interactions as possible. The idea is to simulate romantic interest through online chat — which is why many people fall victim to them. 

Fully understanding language is the mission of the Natural Language Processing bot, also known as an NLP bot. The overall goal of the NLP bot is to help improve communication between bots and humans. 

You may have already run into a bot with NLP programming when dealing with online customer service. 

The Risks and Ethical Concerns

While there are many advantages to using bots, they can also be very problematic — especially when it comes to online dating sites. 

Deception and Manipulation

On an emotional level, it’s devastating for someone to realize that the profile they’ve formed a connection with was never an actual human. 

A report in 2022 revealed that around 70,000 people that year openly admitted to falling for a romance scam, with total financial losses reportedly $1.3 billion.

Graphic with text displaying romance scams stats
Older people are often targets for romance scams due to their perceived financial stability and lesser familiarity with online scams.

Bots can also change social media algorithms. If enough bot accounts create buzz around a particular product or celebrity, they may even sway public interest. 

Since online popularity is often determined by likes and comments, bot accounts could be forming a false reality and creating trends that don’t reflect human interests. 

As bot usage rises, it’s important to question the agenda behind them. Some bots manipulate the truth and hoodwink victims who can’t spot the deception.

Privacy Implications

Bots are a threat to online privacy, which can be especially concerning for users on a dating website. Users often have personal information linked to their accounts. They may let slip important details in conversations that they assumed would be confidential. 

The presence of bot accounts goes against everything a user expects from the site, and it creates distrust and uncertainty when it comes to online dating.

Transparency & Consent 

One of the unnerving facts about bots is that some dating site developers know about them and let them operate. Unethical site owners use bots to boost their number of subscriptions. When they talk about “active profiles,” they may not necessarily differentiate how many are AI. 

Bot accounts can help improve gender ratios in the user base, adding fake female accounts to keep male interest up.

Sometimes, bots can give a false impression that the site contains more desirable and physically attractive men or women than it really does. 

Bot usage for romance scams has increased exponentially in the last year. CBS News reported that “…between January 2023 and January 2024, dating apps saw a 2087% increase in bot attacks.”

Signs of Bot Activity & How to Report Fake Profiles

It’s always important to know what to look out for when it comes to bot accounts. Here’s a rundown of the warning signs and what to do if you encounter a fake account.

Red Flags 

Oftentimes, a bot profile on a dating website may seem a bit off — perhaps their username contains a questionable number of digits, or maybe sentences and thoughts feel incomplete. Common red flags include choppy language and generic phrasing.

Sometimes a bot account will have no photos whatsoever. The fake profile may be nothing but a generic bio that could apply to most single people. Photos and bios are both key aspects of a dating profile, and you should be on high alert if someone messages you with no photos or blank bio sections.

Graphic with text displaying common red flags
When you suspect a bot profile, try adding sarcasm, interjections like “hmmm,” or ask complicated questions to test its authenticity.

Bot accounts may sound repetitive, asking the same questions or rephrasing what you just said. When engaging in a conversation, you’ll want to take note of their response time — a bot will type incredibly fast in comparison to a human. If you receive what looks to be a paragraph of text in mere seconds, that’s a major red flag that you’re communicating with an AI profile. 

Remember, it’s OK to leave these conversations at any time.

On social media sites, it’s good to look for followers and usage statistics when identifying chatbots. Many bots will appear to be new to the site or app in question and have low or questionable stats. 

Think of it this way — if an account has zero followers and no friends, family members, and acquaintances they’ve met over time, why would they start their online journey by cold messaging a stranger?

Reporting and Moderation 

As mentioned previously, dating sites can benefit from having bots on their site, especially if the sites don’t have quite as many active users as their competitors. 

Dating services might not openly welcome bots to their platform, but they might not do too much to control their presence. After all, trying to remove bots is a big, costly challenge. 

Of course, having a reputation for supporting fake profiles doesn’t do a dating service any favors in the long run, so it actually is in their interest to do some policing.

Graphic with text encouraging users to report suspicious profiles
Newer dating sites often use bots to inflate user numbers, but users should report them anyway.

Tinder is an example of a good dating app with a fraud department manually reviewing any suspicious activity. This team is focused on mitigating online harassment as well as fake profiles. 

Users should alert the site admins about any suspicious profiles or potential bot activity, especially if it appears to be harmful. The report tool can help the team flag bad bots or fake profiles on the platform. Identifying and taking down fake profiles may just help other online daters from getting scammed.

Safeguarding Against Deception 

The best way to protect yourself is to take control of the situation. Learn more about bots and how to spot them, and make sure not to give out any personal information by accident. 

Even seemingly innocent details – the ages of your kids or your pets’ names – may help bots guess your account passwords. 

“From January 2023 to January 2024, there’s been a 2087% increase in scammers using chatbots and AI-generated text on dating apps.” — Security.org

If you feel unsure, clue in a trusted friend or relative about your dating pursuits and see if they can spot any red flags. 

It’s always good to have a trustworthy wingman give their perspective since they have your best interest at heart. The golden rule of online dating is that if a dating profile seems too good to be true, they likely are.

The Impact on Users and the Dating Landscape

The presence of bots has shaped online dating in many ways. Leaders in the industry have pioneered profile verification tools, spam filters, and other security measures to keep online daters safe from fraud.

User Experiences

The more bots come into play, the more users will grow to distrust online dating. No one wants to be led on by a chatbot, no matter how charming its openers are.

User experiences illustration

Fortunately, the occasional bot experience hasn’t deterred swiping overall – it’s currently the most popular way for people to meet local singles.

It’s a good idea to check out reviews about the user experience before trying any dating site. Take a look to see if others mention an alarming number of bot profiles. 

Some dating sites allow you to browse profiles before joining or paying. That’s a chance to see what the community is like. During a trial period, users can get a feel for if the profiles seem genuine.

Trust Issues 

If a user has encountered more bots than real dates, they may decide that online dating isn’t for them. It can be difficult to trust online strangers after getting fooled by bots.

Trust issues illustration

Online dating can work and inspire real relationships though, so we encourage singles not to give up while seeking love or companionship. 

Cast a wide net and message a diverse group of people who seem interesting. Maybe arrange a video chat to ease your mind. 

If any of the conversations get a little too intense too quickly, perhaps love bombing within the first chat or two, don’t feel bad about cutting them loose.

If someone is giving a bad vibe, move on to pursue other contacts. 

Fall in Love Without Falling for Fakes 

Never be afraid to ask directly if someone is legit, especially if you’ve been burned before. You owe yourself a completely honest dating experience, and real people will understand the need for transparency.

Your matches may have been duped by bots in the past, so they should empathize with your concern. Anyone who pushes back defensively might not be the best match for you anyway. After all, the best relationships come from honest and truthful conversations. 

If you give it time, you’ll find a real connection with someone who isn’t trying to mine data for monetary gain.