Quantity of text isn’t a great indicator, says Winchester, in part because of the growing popularity of bots.
If one bot network pushes out the same garbled phrase to millions of profiles, it can quickly skew the pick-up line popularity contest.
More and more of us insist on outsourcing our love-lives to spreadsheets and algorithms.
Likewise, scammers use current events to provide cover stories that explain why they’re in, say, Nigeria.
When Boko Haram kidnapped a group of school girls last spring, Winchester said, dating profile fakers would claim to be there abroad as part of a US special forces mission.
It turns out that all those people parsing dating profiles for grammar above all else are protecting themselves not just from bad dates, but from bad actors.
The most popular con-man profile text in the UK, for example is “so please i want you to get back to me here with your email address so that i can send you my pictures so get back to me thanks.” Hard to imagine swiping right on that.
There was no dedicated screening service at that time, Winchester says. Well, he did along with an acquaintance, Nick Tsinonis, who already had expertise using machine learning to help match dating site users based not on their expressed preference, but on behavior.
The result, Scamalytics, is a company that’s able not only to identify a number of key profile traits—in the “low hundreds,” says Winchester—but to measure how they play against one another for a more complete picture of who’s real and who’s swindling.“Features that in isolation may not give you too much information, in combination become much more powerful,” says Winchester.
These bots aren’t necessarily looking for love, or even for a direct cash transfer; they’re often simply trying to convince their marks to install something, like an app, in a case of direct marketing gone gross.“In some ways the target isn’t really the victim of anything other than having their time wasted, and installing a game that they don’t necessarily want,” says Winchester of these bot-based shakedowns.
“But the operator of the bot is collecting payments for generating downloads, without ever having to interact with the user themselves.”If someone’s going to fall for a fake profile, that’s about as innocuous a result as one can hope for.
If you want to think about dating as a numbers game (and apparently many people do), you could probably swipe left/right between 10 – 100 times in the span of time that it would take you to interact with one potential date in ‘real-life’.
With the popularity of sites like e Harmony, match.com, OKcupid and literally thousands of similar others, the stigma of online dating has diminished considerably in the last decade.
If it turns out to be a model, or really anyone other than who the profile says it is, that's a scammer.