A new study has shown that thousands of Dutch female profiles on dating app Tinder are fake. Many of the scam profiles are not simply bots but real people who try to get Tinder’s actual users to sign up on various dodgy matchmaking websites which require payment per instant message sent.
Pointer worked with Belgian computer science student Frederik Mees to update the code for a bot he previously published on GitHub. In the past, the bot was able to get a thousand matches within a day, with 30,000 people and bots swiping right in the hope of connecting with it. The refreshed bot analyzed 33,793 profiles of women which state they are in the Netherlands, including 185,557 profile photos. The bot was taught how to spot a fake profile, which will often include photos ripped from Instagram, including images of models and sex workers.
Out of that sample, the bot quickly detected 83 fake profiles which try to send Tinder users to other dating sites. Research published three years ago by the Volkskrant suggests that roughly 13 percent of the Dutch population, two million people, have a Tinder account. The rate suggests that there are at least two thousand active fake profiles, but the news program also said that is a conservative estimate.
Their bot mainly identified fake profiles which used photos that matched Instagram posts and that often had a photo of a scam URL as the last profile picture. These often included the word “secret” or “dirty.” Other fake profiles could be set up in a way that their bot was not able to quickly identify based on its programming.
Users who visit the fake URL are redirected to a Dutch-language landing page that grants access to a fraudulent chat platform upon sign-up. Pointer spoke with former chat operators who said their job was to keep customers engaged, because the victims were charged money per message sent.
One of the fake chat workers, Wendy, said she took the second job when she was in a desperate financial position and needed extra money. “I met so many men who were cheated and chatted for years with women who don’t exist. One of them was a direct colleague of mine,” she said, referring to a coworker from her day job. She quit the job in less than a month.
Another, Tim, was hired via a vacancy placed on Marktplaats. The job interview over Skype included a test where he had to write explicit messages. “I thought I would start working for a sex line, but it turned out to be a dating site. A well-paid side job. I was able to earn thousands of euros a month sending those messages,” he said.
He was on track to earn upwards of 10,000 euros, including bonuses, in a month, but his conscience soon got the better of him. He encountered an old classmate who had spent a year chatting with the workers behind one fake profile. “I was shocked. He had also sent nude photos of himself, which were stored on the site.”
The websites’ operators, three companies based in Hungary or Cyprus, did not return calls for comment, Pointer said. Some of the fake URLs cited by Pointer include http://Flirtendoejehier.com, http://Flirtenhier.com, http://Flirterigedates.com, http://Hookupdesires.com, http://Pin-match.com and http://Vrijgezellenbijmij.com. They also run other websites in other languages, Pointer alleged.