Heartbreaking Stories of People Who Got Scammed on Tinder During the Pandemic

Heartbreaking Stories of People Who Got Scammed on Tinder During the Pandemic
Illustration: Benjamin Currie/Gizmodo

Every social media site has scammers, but there’s something extra depressing about people getting scammed on dating sites like Tinder. Unfortunately, it happens all the time, and that hasn’t stopped with more people turning to dating apps during the pandemic.

Back in 2016, Gizmodo filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FTC for consumer complaints that Tinder users had filed about the dating app. We decided to file a new request. Some complaints were similar to 2016, but there are a few new twists.

A few common themes show up in the latest available scam reports obtained by Gizmodo, among them, many scam allegations about people claiming they’re with the U.S. military and tales of emotional exploitation. There are also several reports of people googling for a customer service number to reach Tinder for an issue with their account only to stumble onto bogus “customer service” numbers that scammers use to demand distraught people to purchase eBay and Google Pay gift cards and provide them with the authorization numbers. This is an easy scam to pull off, in part because Tinder has no official customer service phone number available and, according to the complaints, emails to Tinder frequently go unanswered.

When we looked at the problem of scammers on Tinder back in 2016, just 27% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 said they used online dating apps and websites. That number has exploded to 75% for Tinder alone, not even including other dating sites. And while the surge of dating app use during the pandemic has had varying effects on relationship dynamics, it’s also provided scammers with more potential victims.

We’re publishing a handful of the dozens of FTC complaints about scams on Tinder that we’ve obtained from 2020 below. Some minor spelling and formatting errors have been corrected for readability. We’ve also redacted some information that would implicate innocent people in crimes they didn’t commit, most often because scammers used their name and/or likeness to commit fraud on Tinder.

“I then wired $26,000…”

Met Ben [redacted] in mid April and chatted thru Tinder then on Whatsapp. We got very friendly and we met on Skype face to face the end of April. He said his wife and daughter died in a car accident 5 years ago. He decided I should come to Sweden as he was going to buy me an airline ticket hopefully travelling in July when the border there opened up.

We talked about it being a business trip so it would be easier for me to enter Sweden. I was to send first $US7,000 ($9,129) via PayPal which I did on May 11th. He said his father passed away and I was to come look at his property. A week later Bradley [redacted] who was his International Finance guy sent me an email describing the property and value and said I would need at least 20% down.

I then wired $US20,000 ($26,082) to a Lina [redacted], at Nordea Bank on May 21. I don’t know if it has cleared yet as my bank said it would take until 6/1/20. When I email David this he said it should clear on his end in 2-3 days, which would possibly be Tuesday 5/26/20. Ben and I have been chatting twice a day up until Yesterday, Saturday. He sent me a text via WhatsApp saying what his day was going to be but he didn’t call at 2pm, my time, as usual.

This morning I received an email from David asking if I’ve heard from Ben as he has not responded to him. I replied I hadn’t heard from him since the text Saturday morning. Today I found out on the internet that I could do a reverse image on a website called socialcatfish. I put in several of Ben’s photos and it came up with a match of a Stefan [redacted], who is married and has 4 or 5 kids on Facebook: About 18 pictures Ben sent to me are on Mr [Stefan’s] Facebook page.

I also found that Ben was on another dating site as “Allen” in Dallas, TX at some point: This is up to date as of now, Sunday at 7:00pm. I wish I would have know about image reversing. I thought I was secure in knowing who he was when we’re on Skype. Unless he had a mask on he looked just like Stefan [redacted] pics. We even Skype with a lady Linda who he said is his Assistant for 15 years.

“I’m not sure if that was a scam…”

So I matched with a girl on tinder and she told me she wanted me to verify my account and sent me a link and I put in my debit card info and name. This was a couple of days ago and I just realised that they took out $US39.99 ($52) out of my account and I called a number which is [redacted] to get my money back. I’m not sure if that was a scam as well but I hope not. They said 5 to 10 business days it will be restored.

“I am now broke and heart broken.”

We met on Tinder. We quickly fell in love. He claimed to be a cyber agent in the military on special assignments. First he was in California. then Afghanistan. Always saying he’d be home to Chatham base “soon”. It’s been four months. He first asked for $US500 ($652) dollars for food saying his debit card was frozen and bank account shut down till further notice. I believed him. After that he asked me to help him start a live business in Fortex saying he’d double my money if I gave him $US10,000 ($13,041) dollars. I refused. He asked for money for a new phone at $US1,500 ($1,956) dollars I gave it to him.

He played with my heart and would get angry when I didn’t give him money. Saying I didn’t trust him. I thought I found the man of my dreams and from then on gave him money every time and every reason he asked. This totaled up quickly to 22,100.00. This was my savings. I can’t believe I’ve been scammed and I fell in love with an image. We never spoke on the phone. We never met, only texting. I can’t live without this money and he promised to give it back and more. Now that i know he isn’t jesse [redacted] and his phone is untraceable to me.

I fear the wrist for getting my money back. There is a person that warned me because the same person scammed his mum and other woman too. But like me the other woman stays in denial thinking he’s real and that he loves us. I have the bitcoin addresses that he sent me to send him money. They were always different. I’m hoping this can help connect him to his real name. We also use hangouts and I wonder if that could trace his current location. He has my SS#, a picture of my licence and passport. He knows my DOB, where I live, my post office box number, names of family members, etc.

He asked for all that to start something social for our future together. He is very persuasive. I didn’t want to give him money but he instilled fear in me and made me doubt myself. I also was afraid to lose him. Now all I care about is getting my huge amount of money back and catching him because I’m pretty sure he’s doing this to many women past and present. He wants marriage and children and two houses. He is a very good liar. Says he’s been in the military for ten years. Grew up in Germany. Has an ex-wife and a five year old girl. Two parents deceased.

The profile he used I was able to find and this is how I know he’s not who he says he is. He is not jesse [redacted]. The real jesse [redacted] is in the military married with a little girl. His instagram is [redacted]. This is the person the fake Jesse uses his photographs etc. I unfortunately cant come up with much more information but I really need to get my money back and save other innocent people/women from falling into this trap. This man is evil and a narcissist and obviously no empathy. He is a professional serial scammer and robber. He needs to be caught.

I plan to go to my local police, my bank and whomever else I need to to work on catching this horrible person. I am now broke and heart broken. I should have known better but he is so strong and does get angry. I fear for him in real life. He still insists we will meet and I will get my money back but I don’t see how he can pull it off because he’s not who he says he is and I fear he’s dangerous.

“Then he asked for a 100 EUR iTunes card…”

My friend Juliane met “Christopher” on Tinder. They talked a little bit, then moved to text messaging using WhatsApp on April 2. Christopher’s story: US-American who was in Berlin at the time they connected on Tinder, then was “deployed” to work as an engineer on a base in Syria. Said he needed iTunes gift card to have the IT department of his company [redacted] transfer the credits to mobile data.

My friend who got scammed sent him a 15 EUR gift card even though she felt weird about the guy because his English was not native (too many grammar mistakes and unusual wording). They continued to talk for approx. two weeks, then he asked for a 100 EUR iTunes card. She did not send the card, we “googled” this scam attempt and found that others have made similar experiences. Juliane confronted him by saying that she knew he was scamming her and he sent some outraged messages back.

She never sent him any vulnerable pictures or the like, so he has “nothing” he can blackmail her with, only her phone number. Other information “Christopher” sent about himself: widower, has one ten yr old child (who lives with Christopher’s mother in NY), lost wife 3 years ago in [accident], lives in Anderson SC, sent several pictures of a person claiming to be him (playing cornhole, standing on radio towers wearing a work harness)

“I loaned him $3,260…”

My friend met a man on tinder Who went by the name of Gadsden. She then introduced me to his friend, he went by the name Ranger. We had talked for weeks and then he said that he had sold some property a few years ago and the IRS said he owed money and he said that the IRS seized his bank account and asked to borrow some money until his CPA resolved the issue. I loaned him $US2,500 ($3,260).

“They said they would reimburse me the $260…”

I was unable to receive a verification code to log into my Tinder account. When I contacted the customer service listing for Tinder, I was told to go to Duane Reade and buy an eBay gift card for $US200 ($261). Then I was told to call the customer service number back and give them the eBay number for the $US200 ($261). They said they would reimburse me the $US200 ($261) if I gave them my bank account number to reimburse it to.

When my mum called the customer service number, she was told the same thing. They gave her a manager to call, Mr. Albert at [redacted]. He never called her back. I am now locked out of my Tinder account because I cannot get a verification code. They told my mum that the account is banned and the only way to unlock it is to pay the money. Please help. There may be lots of people who have been scammed by this fake customer service. Tinder has no other number to call, and if you email them, they never respond.

“They said I needed to use eBay gift cards.”

My Tinder account was hacked. Called the number from a website claiming to be Tinder. They told me that there were multiple hackers and I needed to pay for a secure connection and would be reimbursed. They said I needed to use eBay gift cards. I paid and after realised I was scammed. I have tried contacting eBay’s scam number but it just hangs up on me when I try moving forward after being promoted. I have since tried emailing Tinder with no response and don’t know if I’m still being scammed with purchases in my account because I can not get into it.

“…he paid them $2,608…”

Consumer states that he has an account with Tinder and he had wanted to contact them, so he went on their site. He click on consumer help and got a phone number to call. He did that and was told that they will help him straighten out his issues with his account. He was told that he would first have to purchase a gift card for $US500 ($652). He did that 4 times, so he paid them $US2,000 ($2,608) in total.

“He claimed he was in the Army Reserve…”

I met this person on Tinder an we ended up a match. We started message each other on tinder he claim he is in the military in Abilene, Texas. Then he claimed he was going to be deployed in Alaska for two months over a peace deal. We exchanged phone numbers and started texting each other on WhatsApp and then claimed he loved me and wanted my PayPal account and wanted to put money in there so he can have me buy a stream card for him to exchange on bitcoin.

Then I asked him what happened about his bank account and his other document he told me he lost it during patrol. So he sent money in the PayPal and then I got scared and blocked him and he had another person texting me. He was his colleague and that if I don’t pay his money in 24 hours he was going to kill me and my own children.

He claimed he was in the Army Reserve in Abilene and his name was Richard. So I blocked him and I’m scared for my kids. I ended up sending David [redacted] a $US100 ($130) gift card to ease back. He tried to get in my email and the location said it was from Nigeria.

“Scammer wanted to verify I am of age and background check.”

Bio on tinder … made contact … scammer wanted to verify I am of age and background check. IE: for secure dating that I am not a criminal. via websites date4tinder.com, date4done.com, date4tinder.xyz stating the sites are free, no charge to the CC just for verification of who I am.

Scammer was persistent on getting verification code for Tinder. Scammer used 2 numbers [redacted], [redacted] and then a final # after tinder code was given # [redacted] stating for a hook up scammer seemed to be same person but sent two different pictures that were not appropriate. I cancelled my CC a small charge was tried but declined by my CC co. the site was for an offer to keep your information secure I am sorry I didn’t take note of the site. Looks very professional. I was banned from tinder for my ignorance new to the tech thing. The scammer is still texting me trying to engage # [redacted]. If I can be of any help please contact me.

“I need to get a Google Play $65 card”

I Googled contact Tinder and they gave me this number I called the number. They said I was hacked and I need to get a Google Play $US50 ($65) card and then contact them and they would fix my account has been hacked in Mexico I realised they were a scammer that’s when I contacted you. They said they were affiliated with Google Play Store or Tinder.

“I was also asked to download applications that allowed them to access my laptop and iPhone.”

I called Tinder customer support to cancel subscription. Was asked to buy three $US100 ($130) Google Play gift cards and to provide the number. I was also asked to download applications that allowed them to access my laptop and iPhone. When they asked me to buy more gift cards I became suspicious and asked them to call me some other time.

If you or someone you know is ever asked to pay money to someone they met on a dating site, it’s probably a scam. On the “Tinder Support” page, Tinder offers only a contact form and a fax number. The press email will give you this auto-response: “Thanks for your email. Unless you are a member of the media, you will not receive a response. Please use the emails below for other requests,” which include production clearance inquiries. We’ll update this post if we hear back.