While many single adults are embracing online dating and dating apps as a way to meet romantic partners, it’s important to be aware that the same technology that connects us doubles as an ideal environment for predators and scammers. According to a new Wells Fargo survey, over half of all singles (52%) have used a dating app or online dating site, including one in five singles who are age 65 or over (20%). What’s more, of those 52% of singles who’ve used a dating app or online dating site, nearly two out of three (63%) have been contacted by somebody they thought might be a scammer — including 58% of those who are over 65.
Furthermore, of all singles surveyed, one in three (33%) have known somebody who fell for an online romance scam, including 27% of those over 65. Nevertheless, one-quarter of all singles (25%) met or dated somebody online during the pandemic, with a third of all singles (35%) saying the pandemic made them more interested in meeting people online.
Few see themselves as vulnerable to online dating scams
A third of all singles (30%) have close family or friends whom they consider to be vulnerable to romance scams, though a third as many (just 11%) consider themselves vulnerable. When it comes to scams more generally, nearly a third (30%) have had a family member who lost money to a scam, and as many (31%) have been scammed themselves or have given out financial information they later regretted.
Nearly all survey respondents (92%) describe themselves as “guarded” rather than “trusting” when it comes to meeting people online. A large majority of respondents seem aware of the most common scamming ploys and would feel suspicious if a person they met online:
- Asked for new or reloaded gift cards (98% consider this suspicious)
- Avoided video or phone calls (93% consider this suspicious)
- Claimed to be stationed or working temporarily in another country (80% found this suspicious)
“One survey finding that’s concerning is that fewer than one in four (23%) have ever done a reverse image search of an online profile picture to determine if a person is real. For those over 65, only 7% have performed a reverse image search,” said Ron Long, head of Aging Client Services, Office of Consumer Practices at Wells Fargo.
Adds Long, “Scams are continually evolving — and so are the safeguards that we put in place to help protect the assets of our customers. Wells Fargo is committed to investing time, people, technology, and other resources to help identify, intercept, and investigate incidents of suspected elder and vulnerable adult financial abuse.”
The national online survey consisted of 930 U.S. adults who have never been married, divorced, separated, or widowed. It was conducted by Versta Research on behalf of Wells Fargo Dec. 13-29, 2021.
Risky behaviors for online dating
Though looking for love in 2022, most singles — yet not all — know enough to avoid risky online dating behaviors, with most saying they won’t:
- Lend the person money for a health emergency (91%)
- Fly to a distant location to meet the person (84%)
- Meet a person who sent an unsolicited provocative photo (81%)
- Meet the person without talking by phone or video first (80%)
- Let the person pick them up at their home for a first date (75%)
Still, substantial numbers would engage in risky behavior, and they may be unaware of subtler ways in which dating scammers work, according to the survey.
Up to half of singles surveyed said they would take personal risks in meeting or dating an online romantic interest:
- One in two (50%) would not check the person’s background
- One in four (27%) would not get a second opinion from someone they trust
- One in four (25%) would let the person pick them up at their home for a first date
- One in five (20%) would meet the person without talking by phone or video first
- One in five (19%) would meet the person even if sent an unsolicited provocative photo
- One in six (16%) would fly to a distant location to meet the person
- One in eleven (9%) would lend the person money for a health emergency
Men more willing to take risks, potentially more vulnerable to scams
Men, especially, are willing to take risks in meeting or dating an online romantic interest. Of those surveyed:
- 62% would not check the person’s background (vs. 39% of women) — and more so (72%) with men age 65+
- 37% would not get a second opinion from someone they trust (vs. 18% of women) — and more so (54%) with men age 65+
- 36% would let the person pick them up at their home for a first date (vs. 14% of women)
- 29% would meet the person without talking by phone or video first (vs. 13% of women)
- 33% would meet the person even if sent an unsolicited provocative photo (vs. 6% of women)
- 20% would fly to a distant location to meet the person (vs. 12% of women)
- 12% would lend the person money for a health emergency (vs. 6% of women)
“Given that our survey results indicate that men — particularly over age 65 — are significantly more willing to take risks than women while dating online, we strongly suggest that they exercise more caution to protect themselves from potential scammers,” said Lauree Peterson-Sakai, strategy leader, Aging Client Services, Office of Consumer Practices at Wells Fargo.
Scammers often operate subtly
Other scamming techniques that should prompt caution for singles are, as yet, not always prompting caution, with about half or more of singles surveyed not considering it suspicious if a person they’ve met online:
- Asks them to visit their social media page (68% not suspicious)
- Has interests almost exactly like their own (55% not suspicious)
- Wants to know about where they work (53% not suspicious)
- Has few friends or followers on social media (46% not suspicious)
“While the prospect of finding ‘The One’ can be exhilarating, it’s important that people remain cautious and protect themselves from potential scammers in their search for romance,” said Long.
About the Survey
Versta Research conducted a national survey of singles on behalf of Wells Fargo. The sample included 930 U.S. adults who have never been married, divorced, separated, or widowed. Singles in older age brackets (age 40 and over) were over-sampled to allow robust comparisons by age groups. Final data were statistically weighted by age, gender, race/ethnicity, income, education, and region, to match current U.S. population estimates of single adults. The survey was conducted Dec. 13–29, 2021. Assuming no sample bias, the maximum margin of error for full-sample estimates is ±3%.
About Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a leading financial services company that has approximately $1.9 trillion in assets, proudly serves one in three U.S. households and more than 10% of small businesses in the U.S., and is the leading middle market banking provider in the U.S. We provide a diversified set of banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through our four reportable operating segments: Consumer Banking and Lending, Commercial Banking, Corporate and Investment Banking, and Wealth & Investment Management. Wells Fargo ranked No. 37 on Fortune’s 2021 rankings of America’s largest corporations. In the communities we serve, the company focuses its social impact on building a sustainable, inclusive future for all by supporting housing affordability, small business growth, financial health, and a low-carbon economy. News, insights, and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories. Additional information may be found at www.wellsfargo.com | Twitter: @WellsFargo
News Release Category: WF-ERS
Helen Bow, 832-962-1452