Online Dating Scams

Interesting research:

We identified three types of scams happening on Jiayuan. The first one involves advertising of escort services or illicit goods, and is very similar to traditional spam. The other two are far more interesting and specific to the online dating landscape. One type of scammers are what we call swindlers. For this scheme, the scammer starts a long-distance relationship with an emotionally vulnerable victim, and eventually asks her for money, for example to purchase the flight ticket to visit her. Needless to say, after the money has been transferred the scammer disappears. Another interesting type of scams that we identified are what we call dates for profit. In this scheme, attractive young ladies are hired by the owners of fancy restaurants. The scam then consists in having the ladies contact people on the dating site, taking them on a date at the restaurant, having the victim pay for the meal, and never arranging a second date. This scam is particularly interesting, because there are good chances that the victim will never realize that he’s been scammed—in fact, he probably had a good time.

Posted on May 7, 2015 at 12:30 PM40 Comments


ConcernedCitizen May 7, 2015 12:39 PM

The third scenario might be confusing a scam for something else otherwise known as “a night in the life of a nerd.”

mark May 7, 2015 12:49 PM

The annoyance of online dating anymore is that so much of it is a scam. 15 years ago, using one, I actually met someone I lived with for several years. More recently… you say how old you are, and what age range you’re looking for (say, over 40), and the only responses are allegedly from women allegedly between 22 and 24.

My take, and when I was looking, I occasionally responded, depending on the Received: headers, is that they’re being sent by fat 47 yr old guys who’ve never had sex without paying for it….


Daniel May 7, 2015 1:35 PM

I’m puzzled by how that third scam can be profitable for the business. Restaurants are a notoriously low margin business in a fickle industry which is why so many of them fail. So the profit on the victim’s meal has to cover the cost of the girl to the restaurant owner and I just don’t see that as realistic, unless the date is buying lots of food or alcohol. The pretty girl gets a free meal but she’d likely get that anyway without the restaurant owner being involved.

It smack more of being a desperation tactic than an actual business strategy.

ConcernedCitizen May 7, 2015 1:45 PM


Exactly. Number three just seems like poor research rather than a real scam. Lots of women go out with a guy once without the intent to provide any, shall we say, reciprocal value.

Malcolm May 7, 2015 1:55 PM

The third case is a classic example of “Dating to Eat”. Many young and attractive women do not need to buy groceries when employing this strategy. There are thirsty men all over, most of whom will be more than willing to pay her way. The restauranteur as confederate seems an unlikely (and unnecessary) elaboration on this ruse. Much of contemporary dating is dressed-up fraud.

UnconcernedForeigner May 7, 2015 1:57 PM

@ConcernedCitizen: #3 is definitely a scam if the woman and the restaurant collaborate and split the profits (or even if the woman just gets a free fancy meal out of the whole thing). If you lie to someone to make them give you money, you’re scamming them.

Of course it’s true that women have done this since basically forever, without involving the restaurant. The line between scamming and “normal” assholish behavior is blurry there, though I’d say if a woman specifically lies about looking for a relationship to get a free fancy dinner, it’s still a scam.

Whether the man’s enjoying the dinner anyway is immaterial, too. Of course men are used to taking women on dates, paying for everything, and then getting a rejection; it happens all the time, and a nice evening is still a nice evening. But when you’re looking for a long-term relationship, you don’t want to waste your time and money on someone who is falsely promising that she is interested in principle and will at least consider getting to know you better.

Roboticus May 7, 2015 2:03 PM

Number 3 could be profitable if you order high margin items. They are cheap but just as an example I used to have a 95% margin on bread sticks. 15 cents of dough and $2.99 for the product. A more expensive restaurant could pick items with similar margins but higher menu price. Or just don’t tell the victim the prices until the end when he finds out that each drink was $10.

Anonymoose May 7, 2015 2:24 PM

At a chinese take-out joint, where the entire meal for two is under $30 including tip, yeah they’re going to have a hard time turning a profit.

At a high end restaurant, where you take a girl you want to impress, you can easily spend $200 plus before drinks on just food. They could kick back $20 or even $50 and still thrive.

Scott May 7, 2015 2:54 PM

Just a slightly modified version of the classic “Chinese Teahouse Scam”.

Nice to see the old classics getting dusted off and polished up.

As for the concern over margins, one should never underestimate the overweening power of greed in modern China. Not to mention that if you’re not in someone’s clan, you’re dirt… nothing is off the table where Han culture is concerned.

After two hundred years of civil war and the cultural revolution, greed is the only thing that’s allowed to be publicly expressed. It’s a misquote, but the phrase “To get rich is glorious” attributed to Deng Xioapeng really does encapsulate everything nicely.

ConcernedCitizen May 7, 2015 2:58 PM

@UnconcernedForeigner: Yes, women have been doing this since forever. There is some remuneration, even if it doesn’t pay off specifically in a second date or more, shall we say, immediate gratification. The gentleman gets to spend a presumably pleasant evening with an attractive woman enjoying good food and conversation. If she does this repeatedly with a series of guys, many nights per month, presumably there are going to be reputational effects that are going to kick in even in larger cities.

The cut for the restaurant can’t be that big, nor can the incentive for them to host this kind of activity. Most restaurants make their profit on the liquor and wine side of the house, hoping to break even on food. I’d see this being something that a bar might be more interested in on a slow evening than a high-end restaurant.

milkshake May 7, 2015 7:09 PM

@Roboticus: Do you mean charging like 6 bucks for a beer that normally retails dollar a bottle in the grocery store? Such a thing could never happen in US…

conrad6 May 7, 2015 7:36 PM

These authors are way too sheltered, do they think this is a novel behavior?

Ancient Greek play anyone? Interview both male and female survivors in Europe after WW2, South Korea in the 60’s, Vietnam in the 70’s, and any not a supremely sheltered snowflake in our expensive universities – this is just more idiocy disguised as research (with taxpayer support, I am presuming).

There is lots of prior art better than this.

BTW – that is a better capcha!

online dater May 7, 2015 10:12 PM

Plenty of smart women would never go out with a guy whose interest is “picked” instead of “piqued.”

Clifford Skridlow May 7, 2015 10:26 PM


It’s profitable because the house girl orders plenty of expensive alcoholic drinks and maybe a fancy dessert, gets served colored water and day-olds, and gets paid a rake from what she makes the house – plus she gets to pump her date for whatever else she feels like. The same scam has been going on since the first pub served the first drink, only the setting is new – and online dating sites make a pretty good screening tool for schlubs with no confidence who feel like they have to spend big for their date to see anything in them.

Peanuts May 7, 2015 11:18 PM

really what seems missing is industrial espionage classic advanced human persistent threats troll online dating waiting for the right geek or asset. They then engage sleep with Have marriage with and fully compromise every waking and sleeping aspect of their targets lives with the principal knowing nothing.

Traditional does not go out of style

Thomas May 7, 2015 11:54 PM

It’s been said trick of trade is order lots of alcoholic drinks, appetizers, and today’s specials.

Clive Robinson May 8, 2015 2:42 AM

The third scam is a form of “status” scam.

The simple fact is that being seen with an attractive woman in a public place boosts not just the mans ego and their confidence, but also their status. It’s why we have the expression “arm charm” or “trophy wife”, and as a consequence the “escort industry”.

As was once pointed out to me by a policeman of reasonable seniority and years experience, prostitution is objected to by other parts of the entertainment industry because it hurts their profits quite considerably.

He went on to indicate that the average price of sex in London at the time was less than a meal for two, or entry price to a club and ten drinks. Finally he made the point that if you payed for a prostitute and then went to a local bar/pub you would achive three things, sex and an enjoyable night out with your mates/buddies all at a much lower price, than trying to impress a girl and probably failing to enjoy yourself and almost certainly not getting sex…

The entertainment industry is well aware that the way to success is to get very atractive people in for free and then fleece those who are atracted to them.

The moral is those that try to impress atractive people with money are fooling themselves, and as the entertainment industry relies upon “a fool and his money are soon parted”…

Oh and if you do get a girl by “flashing cash” what do you really expect to happen when the cash runs out?

Mark Smith May 8, 2015 6:00 AM

I think the third scam works because the woman dictates the choice of a restaurant that the man would not have chosen on his own. Said restaurant runs on inflated margins.

Mark May 8, 2015 9:13 AM

Most women seem content with sitting back and being led, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to spot the scam. (Slight joke… I’m a bit jaded from too much dating lately.)

paul May 8, 2015 10:02 AM

Restaurants are like airlines. Operating margins are slim, but that’s because of load factor. The gross margins on food and drink that actually get ordered are pretty good. In addition, there’s a fair chance (if the scammers choose their suckers right) that someone who is busy trying to impress their date is not going to examine the bill carefully before paying it.

Impossibly Stupid May 8, 2015 11:40 AM

Once you acknowledge that the woman is colluding with the restaurant, there are all sorts of ways you can turn what would normally be a regular dining experience into a “champagne room” gold rush. Extra fees, custom menus, portion reduction, watered drinks, etc. Sell a $100 experience that would normally be $200 and charge $300 for it. The more you can do it to the same suckers, the more everyone makes out (except the guy).

And wasn’t this already common practice by alcohol companies at bars? Hire a hot chick to go in, get a line of dudes to offer to buy her a drink, she orders the sponsored brand every time and you’re off to the races. The fact that the middle man like the bar or restaurant wants to get in on the scam is not surprising.

Reality Czech May 8, 2015 11:46 AM

WANTED: Self-imposed shut-in with zero social skills seeks sexy & dynamic female who is too busy interacting with real people in the real world to ever hang out in a cybernetic LoserWorld like this. What could possibly go wrong?

Tenet May 8, 2015 4:38 PM

“The simple fact is that being seen with an attractive woman in a public place boosts not just the mans ego and their confidence, but also their status.”

Clive – are you so stuck in feminist propaganda that you even refer to a man in a hypothetical scenario with “their” instead of his? When even in the same sentence you make it perfectly clear that you are talking about a hypothetical man. Wake up. One person is not several persons. Feminists are leftists, so they don’t care about crapping on grammar, math and common sense, or the very long tradition of using “he” for a hypothetical person of either sex as it’s the sex-neutral pronoun and always has been. But you should care. Especially when it’s OBVIOUS that you are talking about a man. Be a man and don’t swallow feminist language tricks hook, line and sinker.

anon May 8, 2015 7:37 PM

Interesting… I’m curious as to what degree this is scaled, for these restaurant owners, however? Obviously, the class of restaurant plays a role.

But, if this is pulled off rarely (only a handful of times), just to make a quick few hundred, it’s just in bad taste.

If you can scale this many hundreds/thousands of times over, it’s also in bad taste. But smart.

Tumbleweeds May 8, 2015 9:18 PM

What is missing if acknowledged would rearrange the entire face of cybercommunication security. That is why it is missing.

Natasha Ginger May 9, 2015 8:13 AM

Well a lot of dating sites are scams. But remember who who seeks will always find=)
I have online dating experience and I don’t regret. I have a lot of fun on this site and I have met a lot of interesting ppl there. Online dating as for me it’s a good chance for ppl who are always busy and don’t have free time.

Impossibly Stupid May 9, 2015 9:29 AM

“Feminists are leftists, so they . . .”

Tenet – are you so stuck in feminist propaganda that you even refer to women in a hypothetical scenario with “they” instead of the numerous other derogatory feminine pluralities that you likely have running through your tiny little mind? Now shut the fuck up and let adults talk about a clever little scam that does, in the specific, involve women, but in the general could apply to any common interaction that is mediated by a third party.

Crocuta May 9, 2015 4:01 PM


“…Feminists are leftists, so they don’t care about crapping on grammar, math and common sense, or the very long tradition of using “he” for a hypothetical person of either sex as it’s the sex-neutral pronoun and always has been. But you should care. Especially when it’s OBVIOUS that you are talking about a man. Be a man and don’t swallow feminist language tricks hook, line and sinker.”

Quite emotional, aren’t you? Calm down. Make factual statements instead of giving into histrionic fears of progress and those who are different.

Interesting May 9, 2015 4:51 PM

I see this already taking place in countries like thailand where this could easily provide a decent living for the bar owners, girls or “ladies”.

Clive Robinson May 9, 2015 7:45 PM

@ Tenet,

Clive – are you so stuck in feminist propaganda that you even refer to a man in a hypothetical scenario with “their” instead of his? When even in the same sentence you make it perfectly clear that you are talking about a hypothetical man… …Especially when it’s OBVIOUS that you are talking about a man.

Oh dear oh dear oh dear…

It’s not “OBVIOUS” at all in fact if you go back to the sentance I was talking about a man and a woman in public as a couple (thus “their”). In it I pointed out that the man’s ego got a boost but also both the man and the woman got an improved level of confidence and status.

By your comments I guess you are probably not a woman, thus you are unlikely to have personaly experienced just how badly treated single women are by the entertainment industry and their male patrons.

It does not require a man to be “stuck in feminist propaganda” to see this with their own eyes, and it only takes a few moments of sober thought to realise that such prejudice is unfair. Similar prejudice is at the root of IS and various other terrorist organisations who regard women and girls not just as second class citizens but worse as chattels and spoils of war, to be sold as slaves or given as prizes for murdering others.

Perhaps you should give consideration to a little sober reflection on your part.

John E. Quantum May 10, 2015 2:07 PM

I created an algorithm that matched people using with people on Hilarity ensued 🙂

mb May 13, 2015 4:12 PM

How does that compute?

How insanely expensive has the restaurant to be to include attractive young ladies and make a buck with the dinner without the guy noticing that he’s been scammed?

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