People ask me all the time what “red flags” to look for when reading someone’s online dating profile or emails. Obviously, much of what you determine to be a red flag will be subjective, just like your deal-breakers, but it’s important to keep an eye out for a few things:
- Photos with dates from more than two or three years ago . . . or no pictures at all
This person may be trying to deceive you into thinking that he or she looks like a younger, and often more attractive, version of himself or herself. Or, by not posting any pictures, again, he or she may be hiding something from you.
- Too many pictures not showing the profile-writer’s face
Whether it’s true or not, it looks like he or she is trying to hide something.
- A litany of things someone doesn’t want in a partner instead of what he or she does want
If the person is listing many negative things, it’s possible that he or she is bitter for some reason or might be just out of a relationship and is simply rehashing all of the negative qualities in the last partner.
- Contradictory information
If you find information in someone’s profile that seems to contradict itself, such as age, occupation, number of children, marital status, or level of education, it may be that a lie is not so well-disguised.
- A novel-esque email to you that says nothing about your profile but goes on to tell his or her life story
This is a copy/paste job at its finest. If the person is still of interest to you, I would recommend responding with, “I’d love to hear what piqued your interest about my profile.” Then you’ll either get a real, personalized response or you won’t.
- An email with his or her email address and phone number in it
Something just screams “fishy” here. Why the urgency?
- An email containing strange links to photos or third-party websites
Creepy. Enough said. And potentially a lurking computer virus. Don’t click!
- An email asking for any personal information besides your phone number or email address, such as social security number, date of birth, address, or even bank account number
If any of this happens, run. And run fast! I would also block this user and alert the online dating company as you see fit.
- A lack of commitment to meet in person, either by dodging the question or cancelling several times
There is probably a reason he or she is not agreeing to meet. It is generally not too forward to ask someone out for a drink or coffee after one or two emails back and forth. If meeting in person is not feasible for some reason (perhaps you don’t live close enough to meet in a timely fashion), then the best thing to do is to suggest that you Skype or FaceTime. If someone still declines this offer, then that is a major red flag.
I am, of course, not recommending that you assume the worst about all of your potential dates. In fact, I’m recommending the opposite. Give someone the benefit of the doubt unless you uncover one of the red flags listed. And, of course, be safe.