How to Avoid Narcissists (and Other Online Dating Scammers)

how to be safe online

Online dating in 2015 is nothing like dating as you know probably know it–hell, it’s nothing even like how online dating was ten years ago.  Back in the day, scammers were few and far between, and it wasn’t that odd to email and chat with a person in another state, or country for weeks or even months on end. Those days are gone.  The con artists of the world have caught on to how easy internet dating makes cheating on their partner, or financially scamming people, and you need to approach the whole thing with an almost unhealthy dose of skepticism.

I just want to bring this up first…

If you’ve been in a relationship with a Narcissist, you are most likely terrified to date another one, which is why you are on this site, and reading this article.  I get that.  And if you’re like me, and had more than one serious relationship with a Narcissist in your life, you may even feel that you somehow attract them.  I get that too.  After I got out of relationship number two, I thought long and hard about what red flags I was missing, and where I was going wrong.

Here’s my take on it

I really don’t think that victims attracting a Narcissist is the problem.   Frankly I think the whole debate over whether or not victims attract their abuser is a waste of time. My take on it is that Narcissists are attracted to vulnerabilities of people and of situations–and because we are all human, we all have vulnerabilities, and that makes anyone a potential target–although I will admit that some people have more obvious vulnerabilities than others, and are more of a target.  (If you are dating online and are over 45, divorced, overweight, have a disability, or give off the impression you have money, you are at an increased risk of being targeted.) But frankly who gives a rat’s ass who you attract?  Like most people, I attract the full range of people, some are creepers, and some are awesome. No matter how much therapy you go through, you will still attract a creeper or a pervy construction worker every now and again.  That’s just life.

Just because someone is attracted to you, doesn’t mean that you have to date them or keep them in your life.  You are in the driver’s seat here, not them.  If you are like most victims, then you didn’t even see them coming.  It’s not your fault.  They are con artists, and the red flags that they come with aren’t generally taught.  Unfortunately, going through a relationship with a Narcissist isn’t like having chicken pox–just because it happened once, doesn’t mean it can’t happen again.

The top 5 things you can do in order to protect yourself from Narcissists and other online dating scammers: 

1. Know the red flags to watch out for.

2. Go slowly and see if any red flags are surfacing.

3.  Focus on being choosy and not on being chosen.

4. Have high standards for behavior of people who you allow to be in your life.

5. Have strong boundaries, and if someone is crossing them, bounce them out of your life.

As you probably know, Narcissists and codependent, or empathic people go together like peanut butter and jelly. There is no mystical woo-woo reason for this, other than nice, understanding, sympathetic people tend to be easily manipulated and suckered in by con artists.  We tend to tolerate a bunch of BS that we shouldn’t. If you don’t want to be suckered in, then you’ll need to really examine your boundaries and standards, and think back to the Narcissistic relationships you were in, and what red flags you over looked, and how flexible your boundaries and standards were for bad behavior–and then make the necessary changes.

Once you start to see signs of bad behavior: “small” lies, words and actions not lining up, or any other type of questionable behavior, then you need to get out of there. If you quit making allowances for bad behavior, you’ll find that you no longer have people with bad behavior in your life.  You are the CEO of your own life.  You choose who stays and who goes. To a Narcissist, high standards and solid boundaries are like garlic to a vampire.

Now the good news

The good news is that all con artists, both Narcissists and online scammers (probably because many are Narcissists), tend to work out of the same playbook, and therefore, come with many of the same red flags. Once you know what to look for, avoiding them becomes a lot easier.

Here are the 15 Top Tell-Tell Signs of Narcissists (and Other Online Dating Scammers):

1.  Poor grammar, spelling, and/or strange word choices.  More often than not the scammer will be the one to email you.  One of the first things you might notice about an online scammer is that their language skills seem strange.  Their email might be peppered with words or phrases such as like “Greetings my dear/beauty/love,” or “Let me tell you how your beauty captured my heart the moment I saw your picture,” or “I could see the caring in your eyes the moment I saw your face,” or “I am a professional engineer.”  Their spelling and grammar are often poor, and don’t seem to match the education level that they are claiming to have.  If what  you are reading sounds like English isn’t their first language, it’s because it isn’t.  Many scammers will try to get around this by telling their potential victims that they are from somewhere in Europe, but moved to the United States–which explains their accent, and strange word choice (not true), so keep your guard up for this line of hooey.

2. Their profile doesn’t have much on it.  Their profile has maybe one paragraph, and five pictures.  What they are looking for in a potential mate is wide open, as they need to stay flexible enough to be able to morph into what you are looking for.  What their profile does have on it is their “bait”.  They give a brief rundown of how successful,serious they are about a relationship, religious (especially on religious-based dating sites like for example), or patriotic they are.

3. There is a portrayal of success, heroism, or great beauty.  Lately, it seems like a lot of the scammers are claiming to be good-looking (not a shocker), engineers, independent contractors, entrepreneurs, or in the Military.  The goal is to first catch your eye, and then for them to come across like they are financial stable and important, so it doesn’t come across to their potential victim as that strange that they are overseas at the moment.  I’m guessing the goal for the con artist to come across as financially stable is two-fold: 1. That they are a good catch, and 2. That you will believe that they have the money to pay you back once they hit you up for some.  As for Military service, most Americans have their guard down when it comes to people who claim to be serving in the Military. Many potential victims want to do all they can to support the troops, especially if this con artist claims they are stationed overseas.

4. Something seems off.   Be on the look out for someone significantly younger than you that is trying to chat you up. Both female and male con artists will have some sort of explanation about this–that they either look for older men/women because they are more mature, or that they really lied about their age on the dating site (and are really a different age than what is posted–whatever age you are comfortable with is what they’ll be for you) because they were tired of attracting all these younger/older people. The target might feel really flattered at first that this attractive, amazing and seemingly sincere person is so into them, but the more they communicate with this person, the more something seems off–or too good to be true.

As a general rule, online dating con artists tend to target people over the age of 45, as they have a larger potential for having more money than a 25 year-old.  The older a person is, the odds are probably higher that they are wanting to meet someone and get married sooner than later–and they aren’t as tech savvy as younger people, and not as up-to-date about what dating scams look like. Men over 45, watch out for sexy women under 27 who are emailing you.  Women, watch out for suave, charming men who have great jobs that are overseas.

5. Wanting to get you off the site.  Members can report suspicious or fraudulent behavior to online dating sites, and online scammers know this.  They don’t want their account to get deleted, so they’ll want to move their conversation with you to either yahoo chat or some other form of chat service (but not video chat) and get off the dating site as soon as possible.

6. Some sort of geographic challenge.  They claim that they either don’t live nearby, or they are out-of-town for some reason. This is the year 2015.  It is super easy to meet large amounts of people online, and in your local area.  The vast majority of people out there that are seriously looking for a relationship don’t have the time or desire to date someone who is more than an hour away from them, let alone someone who lives in another state. If you are being chatted up by someone who seems too good to be true, and lives more than an hour or two away, then something is generally off.

If they are claiming to be out of the country due to a recent death, a sudden need to sell their multi-million dollar business, or are away on very important business dealing with high-ranking government officials (con artists, like Narcissists, tend to tell grandiose stories), then it’s probably a scam.

7. Charming/love bombing.  Right out of the gate the con artist will come across as flirty and coming on a little too strong.  They will send emails that are filled tons of flattery and flowery language, focusing on your beauty, and how they can tell you are such an amazing/kind/sincere/caring person. They will say and do all the right things, and shower you with attention.  If you are still sticking around at this point, then they really up their game, and start “love bombing” you with constant communication and complements. Much of this communication is lengthy, and often includes phone calls that last for hours everyday, as well as multiple emails where they are really laying on the compliments. You will start to feel an intense connection, and they will start to seem so sincerely, and intensely into you, even though you haven’t met…and it’s only been a week.

8. They have an accent.  Once you start talking on the phone, you’ll find that they most likely have an accent. They might have told you that they are from another country in order to not have their accent be the red flag it should be.  Most of them are smart enough to not say that they are from Africa, but many will claim that they are from Sweden, the UK, or Jamaica.  If you come across a person with an accent–especially one who is out of town for important business for some strange reason, then there’s a very high chance that it is a scam.

9. Mirroring. Everything you like and want in your life, they do too!  You love to hike and camp? So do they! (Even though they can’t name a local camping spot they’ve been to.) You are a homebody? So are they! (Never mind that their profile talks about them traveling the world, and doing all these other non-homebody things.)  You want to start a llama farm and dye them different colors like Easter eggs? So do they! What are the odds?! They get all this info from your profile, from your pictures, and from talking to you at great length.  All of this mirroring is done so they can proceed to #10…

10. Future faking. Now that they have gathered all this information about you, they begin combining their love bombing with future faking.  If you have kids, they want to be a great dad to them; if you are sick, they want to take care of you.  They weave a story of this ideal future full of all the elements that you want–and they want it to start as soon as humanly possible. They will tell you that they want to see you as soon as they return to the country.  They will seem so convinced that you are the one for them, you might even find yourself fantasizing about your wedding–even though you’ve only been chatting with them for a few weeks.

11. Rushing intimacy. Targets find themselves really falling head over heels for the scammer, as they seem so sincere, and so ready, willing, and eager to commit.  The charm, the false flattery, their desire to listen and talk to you for hours a day, it’s all very intoxicating. They really do seem like the perfect person. Everything about you is exactly what they were looking for.  They might even email you a picture of an airline ticket they bought to come see you (it’s photo shopped). Maybe they’ve even claimed to have bought you a ring! Everything is happening at lightning-fast speed. They will most likely want you to send them sexy pictures, or start talking dirty with them.  You will feel that you really are in a relationship with this person, and all that’s left is to just meet them and seal the deal. The goal with rushing intimacy is to get you to feel exactly this way.  They want you to believe that you’re in a relationship with them, and that they aren’t the total stranger that they really are.  After all, people won’t give a total stranger large sums of money, but they will be more inclined to give money to a person that they “know.”

12. You start questioning yourself.  Is what you are experiencing strange, or too good to be true?  Is it legit? Maybe you just have issues with men? Is this a scam? Are you moving too fast? Do you want to move this fast?  Are you asking friends and family what they think about this person, or about these emails?  This is all a huge red flag. In a normal, healthy relationship, people don’t ask themselves these kinds of questions.  Think about it–do you question the behavior, or your interpretation of the behavior of your friends, family or coworkers (assuming they are not Narcissists or have some sort of other issue)? Odds are that you don’t–because you don’t need to.  Things happen at a comfortable pace, and there is no behavior that is setting off your Spidey senses.  Listen to your intuition.  If you find yourself questioning their behavior, or how you are interpreting their behavior, then something isn’t right.

13. Some disaster strikes.  Someone dies; they have to sell their business ASAP; they are stuck overseas due to a medical condition, airline strike, the weather, sun spots, or they got kidnapped by pirates.  If something crazy happened that delayed their plans on coming to see you–it’s most likely a scam.  If they ask you for money to get out of their disaster, then it is definitely a scam.

14. You can’t find anything about them online.  Again, this is the year 2015. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who has no information about themselves online.  Most people have some sort of social media account on Facebook, Linked in, Pinterest, Twitter, or a business website, or has been on a former employer’s website, or has done an interview, written an article, graduated from somewhere, or there is something somewhere on Google with their name in it. They should have some sort of information online if they are in business of any kind.  You can always ask them for the name of their company, or where they work and Google that.  If they tell you they are an independent contractor, and don’t have a website, or any business profile anyone on the ‘net, then that should be a concern.

15. They either want to send you money, or are asking you for some.  Stable, normal adults do not ask other stable, normal adults for money–especially if they are trying to date them, and especially if they haven’t met yet.  If normal adults are in a financial pinch, they will ask friends or family (or a bank) for help, not a stranger they’ve met online.  If a person you’ve met online wants to send you money, or deposit some in your bank account for whatever reason, it’s a scam.  If money is involved, it’s a scam.

The fastest way to determine if you are dating a scammer:

1. Insist they chat with you on Skype or Facetime.  You need to see this person sooner than later to make sure that at least their photos are of them (not just scammers, but lots of people mislead others with old photos, or photos that aren’t them).  If they are a scammer, then odds are they will have some reason that they can’t meet with you over video–they don’t know how to use Skype, they don’t have a smart phone, they don’t have internet access, but all this is most likely nonsense, because, well they are a con artist, and everything they’ve told you has been a lie–including what they look like.

2. Search for them (as well as their pictures) online. Copy and paste every picture they have on their profile, and the ones that they are sending you into Google images, and see where else on the internet those images show up.  If they are scammers, then odds are that their pictures were stolen from a website or someone else’s profile.

3. Insist you meet them soon. Insist that you meet them, and that you don’t want to talk to them anymore until you meet in person.  The reason being, if they are a scammer, the more you talk to them, the more they are going to try and rope you in with their charm and lies.  Don’t even start to like someone, let alone get emotionally invested with them before you meet in person.

4. Flat out tell them you’d never give a stranger you’ve met online money.  Tell them that you’ve been reading about online scams, and just flat out tell them that you’d never give a stranger you’ve never met online money, and that they would be out of their damn mind to even ask you for any. (And yes, they are still a stranger, even though they are talking about love, and marriage and wanting to be with you forever.)

How I used to go about dating online

When I started online dating ten years ago, I would spend lots of time (weeks on end) emailing people, and seeing if we clicked that way.  Once I felt like we had a strong enough connection, then (and only then) would I give them my phone number to call me.  We’d talk for at least a few weeks before I felt comfortable meeting them in person.

The reason I moved so slow back then was because it seemed like the safest way to proceed. I was freaked out about giving a guy my phone number, and then having him continue to bug me if there wasn’t a spark.  And I was very hesitant to meet him in person, as it seemed like a dangerous idea to meet a stranger off the internet. …And that worked back then. But this is exactly what you don’t want to do with dating online in 2015. Nowadays, the most dangerous thing you can do is to spend a lot of time seeing if there is a spark with a person before you meet.  Scammers can rope you in emotionally with all their tricks–after all, they are professional con artists, and they do this for a living.

My approach now (for what it’s worth)

Since getting back into online dating, I’ve had to totally change up my approach to weed out the cheaters, the Narcissists, and the scammers. What I’ve found that works is to quickly go from liking someone’s profile, to email, to text, to phone, to meeting in person, all within under a week.  (Often times I find that there isn’t a click once we get on the phone, and then I stop there.  There’s been very few people I’ve clicked with enough to where I’ve wanted to meet them.)

My approach hasn’t worked 100% of the time, as I’ve had a few potential Narcissists slide under my radar (which really freaked me out and rattled me but good).  But it’s made me tighten up my standards and boundaries, and I’ve been able to get them out before any damage was done.  So don’t freak out or feel bad if you crash into another one.  There’s a lot of them out there, so just go slow and remember those five steps that I mentioned before.

How to protect yourself

1. Look at their profile.  Does it logically and grammatically make sense?  Are they using odd words?

2. Don’t put too much info in your profile.  If you put everything that you are looking for in a partner in your profile, as well as everything that you love to do, and what you are about, then it makes it really easy for a con artist to mirror all that back to you.  Keep your profile general, and save the details for the phone, or for when you meet.

3. Email back and forth no more than three times.  The goal with emailing back and forth should be to see if you have enough of a connection to give them your phone number–it’s not about getting to know everything about them. Keep things brief.  The less conversation you have with them over email and phone, the less likely you will be to develop a false sense of connection. (You really need to meet in person to make sure they are at least somewhat legit.) Do not develop feelings for people that you are only emailing with, doing so will only set you up for hurt and heartache.

4. Talk on the phone.  Have a brief phone conversation. (Notice if they can’t talk after 5pm or on weekends–this tends to be a sign that they are married, or in a relationship.) This benefits both of you, as you can click with  someone over email, but then not over the phone.  The goal of talking on the phone is only to see if you connect enough to meet.  You don’t want to spend hours on the phone, or talk for weeks on end, because then if you really click over the phone, and then you meet in person, and there isn’t a spark on someone’s end, it’s going to be really awkward for one of you to call things off, and someone is going to be hurt.

5. Meet ASAP.  Meet for coffee. Keep it light. This is just a meeting.  It’s not a date. If anything, it’s more of a pre-date.  It’s just a brief chit-chat to see if there is a click, and they are who they say they are.  Lots of people lie online and post old pictures. Even those that post current pictures, and are honest, there still might not be a click in person. You don’t want to plan a whole evening full of activities, and then realize within five minutes that you have no spark with this person–or worse, that they are a total creeper.

6. Do not get emotionally involved at least for the first few weeks of dating.  Go slow.  It takes time to see red flags for what they are.  Don’t let your emotions cloud your thinking or judgment–and do not let someone else set the pace of your relationship. You set the pace.  If it’s not comfortable for you, tell them.  If they keep pushing you, then they aren’t respecting your boundaries, then they need to go.

A final thought…

Keep in mind that all manipulative people rely on three things from their victim: hope, pity, or guilt.   If they can get you to believe that there is any chance (hope) that you can live your ideal future with them, or that you will feel sorry for them (pity) due to them being widowed, divorced, robbed, kidnapped, out of money, addict/alcoholic, etc., of that you somehow hurt them or let them down, then they know they have you hooked.  And like other manipulative people (Narcissists) they will slowly bleed you dry of everything they can. If you catch yourself feeling these three emotions for a scammer (or after bad behavior from a significant other in your life) then most likely you need to get rid of them. There are a lot of nice, normal, well-adjusted, sincere people out there.  Finding them often requires a little work, so don’t get discouraged.

Good luck out there, be safe, remember the red flags, and try to have a good time! 🙂

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I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse.

My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.

Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.

It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
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About Dana 347 Articles
I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse. My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life. Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics. It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.


  1. Also, don’t rely on the Dating Site screening out scammers – even if they say they do. This is a great article, very helpful, and I found myself nodding over loads of points.
    Sadly, it’s true that scammers target ladies of a certain age. I got tons of approaches – I’m over 50 and widowed – so MUST be wealthy and desperate – at least in a scammers eyes. What made me extra mad was that when I visited the profiles of the men who were ‘enchanted by my beauty’ (yeah, that gave me a good laugh), they all followed the warning signs that are laid out in this article. A very common theme was that the chap was, supposedly, a devout Christian, widower, with one child, and was looking for love and marriage. There was often some guff about ‘soul-mates’ too.
    If you know what the warning signs are, then it is pretty obvious that these guys are bogus – and I am so angry that so many of the sites do nothing to block these predators!

  2. It really bothers me too that dating sites don’t block these predators. I can’t imagine that it would be that hard to do–it seems like they could block the IP address from their computer. But yeah, it is really frustrating to spend time combing through all the dating profiles out there, and then spend more time trying to fend off the scammers! Arg.

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