Operation w00kin pa nub: Introduction

This research project idea was conceived after observing an uptick in fake profiles on dating sites. While familiar with how to uncover if a dating profile is legitimate or not, the collection of samples has revealed some patterns I have not given much thought to such as geographic location, victim age range, and who controls the profile. These will be explored, as well as other topics, in future posts. This entry, however, will lay out how samples are collected, how geographic area of collection is defined, and current shortcomings/bias of the research.

Sample Collection

The online dating site is one of the major market players. Samples are collected while looking through public profiles. Included are handle, age, gender, city/town, province/state, country, and age range the target is looking for. In all targets so far, whether it be in the text summary about themselves or in their photos they have uploaded, emails or phone numbers are included. An ID is assigned to each target which will be used to anonymize their handle when discussing in a format such as here. If photos are used, they will be redacted as best as possible.

Geographic Area

The main search area for scammer/catfish profiles are located in the north east area of the United States; New England to be a tiny bit more specific. The geographic search parameter is set to either a specific state or within a fifty mile radius. If a target is discovered, the samples are collected and then the user handle is entered into the search function. If there’s a hit, even if the target is in another state, the sample is collected.


Current shortcomings and bias:

  • Only observing a single dating site.

  • Target profiles are assumed to be straight females.

  • Searching is manual.

  • Primary search is limited to two specific geographic areas which would be considered within driving distance.

  • It is unknown what straight females are observing.

  • It is unknown what LGBTQ members are observing.

  • It is unknown what different ethnicities are observing.

  • It is unknown what members outside the United States are observing.

Would like to have:

  • Samples from anyone who wants to help.

Lastly, to kick things off, let’s start with paying attention to information in profiles. These are your red flags.

Paying attention

One thing that people should do is, if they already don’t, when searching through profiles is to pay attention to what details are shown. I’ll illustrate this point with the following photo.

One red flag is education/profession vs income. This particular member states they hold a PhD or a Post Doctoral degree, but says that their income is less than $25,000 USD. According to payscale.com, someone with a PhD or MD, the salary range is roughly $37,000 – $300,000 USD. This would be akin to a bank teller showing up to work driving a Lamborghini. Their pay, compared to the cost of the car should raise red flags and warrant further investigation.

This looks like a good stopping point for now. If you feel like helping out, or have been scammed/catfished and want to tell your story, you can reach out to us here.