10 Online Dating Red Flags That Should Not Be Ignored

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Online dating is mainstream culture now. Bumble, Hinge, Tinder, Happn — the options are endless. Instead of parks, bars, or offices, we are seeing romance brewing online. Alas, it does come with its own set of challenges and online dating red flags.

Whether you find the guy next door or a woman from another continent, the risks remain the same. Most people come with flaws and behavioral issues that are hard to identify even in person. Being online without a physical presence and social validation just makes the process trickier.

You might experience bad dates, get catfished, run into dating scammers, or be emotionally manipulated, but some red flags when online dating can even lead to physical harm. You never know if the girl you are chatting with is actually a woman or a 50-year-old creep pretending to want a serious relationship. In simple words, learning to recognize red flags in online dating can save you from another The Tinder Swindler fiasco or an arduous heartbreak.

What Are The Online Dating Red Flags?

Reg flags aren’t necessarily every annoying habit of your partner. Despite what Reddit or Twitter might make you believe, not every quirk against the norm is alarming. Instead, a series of patterns that indicate unacceptable behavior is a real red flag.

Here’s an example. It is a red flag if your date, even though she seems like a perfect match in the beginning, is always late everywhere. If it’s just a couple of instances, it doesn’t matter much. But if she keeps repeating it with no explanation and apology, it shows her inconsiderate nature and lack of commitment to you. It also shows that she values her time and convenience over yours and is finicky about her word.

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Such attitudes and actions can cause severe emotional stress. They can make you feel upset, self-conscious, and terrible about yourself. It’s better to end things before red flags become a sign of relationship abuse. Here are some common online dating red flags to avoid:

1. Your online date is vague and elusive

An online dating profile is a succinct way to provide a glimpse of our personalities. If your match can’t be bothered to write up a genuine profile and fails to respond to you clearly, it’s a red flag. If they are dodging your questions and aren’t opening up at all, it’s time to drop them. But before that, make sure you do the following:

  • A simple scroll isn’t enough for a right swipe. Put on your detective glasses and make use of your swift stalking skills. You need to delve into and assess all their answers, photos, relationship status, and linked accounts. Their social profile could be a cesspit of badly lit bathroom selfies or anti-feminist rants. A little digging can save you from impending trouble or heartache in an unhealthy relationship
  • Also, take note of the interactions going on in the comments, it’s an easy way to get to know them
  • Are they a negative Nancy or have a ‘good vibes only’ approach in their profile? Did they copy-paste the cheesiest bio from Google? Scroll away if their words paint a negative image of their personality

Related Reading: 10 Tricks To Choose The Right Profile Pictures For Your Dating Profiles

2. Their photos are too perfect

If someone’s profile looks like a Vogue modeling catalog, maybe gear up for a reverse search. A set of too-good-to-be-true pics could be just that, untrue. Catfishing is still at large, it’s better to go with your gut instinct and swipe left instead of getting duped or scammed.

  • A perfect dating profile starts with a great profile picture and tons of other photos scattered throughout. While some people overpopulate it with their ‘influencer’ lifestyle or gym selfies, others hide in group pictures or masked selfies. Both scenarios raise a red flag, unless there’s a valid explanation. Eg.: They might be queer and don’t wish to out themselves yet
  • Besides showing an obvious red flag of self-obsession or of low self-esteem, photos help you decide your compatibility as well
red flags in online dating
Pay attention to their photos

3. There are online dating red flags in their bio

If their bio says anything along the lines of “Not looking for drama” or “Looking for someone who doesn’t take themselves seriously,” run in the opposite direction! More likely than not, they are going to cause all the drama and gaslight you for taking it ‘seriously.’

  • Charlie, a student from Pasadena, says, “You can bet that they’ll be bad dates. They are always saying awful, racist, and offensive things, but will say it’s a joke if you take offense. And worse, they say you’re too wound up and can’t take a joke”
  • Plus, if they are bragging about their looks, wealth, and traits, scroll away to avoid dating a pompous narcissist

4. They tend to ghost you

Ghosting tops the online dating red flags texting rules. You never know if the reason is their lack of interest or level of immaturity. Or maybe they are just a serial cheater, slyly deceiving their real-life partner online.

  • Did it start with a perfect pandemic-esque meet-cute and hearty flirting? But as time passed, you began noticing a lackadaisical approach to your chats. They were nowhere to be seen, and took weeks to respond to a single text? Maybe it’s better to move on than waste another minute on them
  • It’s prudent to be suspicious. Unless you see some pretty hard evidence of their problems that led them to leave you without a text for days, it’s not a good idea to entertain them

5. They overstep the boundaries

So, you’ve just started talking and things are going well except they just cannot stop crossing the boundaries you set? It tends to happen a lot when one person is more interested than the other. They start exerting control and expect more than you agreed to give.

  • For instance, you clarify that you aren’t exclusive, yet they keep acting like your jealous spouse. They also try to guilt you by doing something and asking you to do the same thing as a show of faith on your end
  • Common red flags in men often involve sending unsolicited vulgar photos or asking for them even before the first date
  • Repetitively breaking boundaries would make you feel unsafe and should be an instant turn-off

6. One of the patterns of serial dating is when they avoid meeting in public places

A huge red flag and one of the warning signs of a catfish is that they refuse to meet in places where they may be recognized or tracked. They also seem to have fake names or seem to be lying or hiding things about their identity. Save yourself from catfishing by asking to meet only in a public setting.

  • If they keep forcing you to meet them at a remote location or their home, instead of a neutral public space, be suspicious because their reasons for meeting may be more nefarious
  • If they always ask you to meet away from their hometown, they could be hiding something from you, a terrible personality or a spouse

Related Reading: Can You Fall In Love With Someone Online Without Meeting Them?

7. They complain a lot

The world sucks and we all love to rant about it! But a dating profile is neither the right place for it nor an outlet to convey personal frustrations. Looking to start dating in college and you’ve ended up talking to someone who does not stop complaining about her assignments or roommates? 

  • One of the most common red flags on dating apps is passionate rants about unrelated topics. Complaining about the state of things and exchanging political views is interesting and important, but if that’s all they offer, it’s better to make an exit as soon as you can
  • Online or offline, this is the biggest red flag of any relationship. It’s tricky to assess their actions and emotions through the screen. If your date tends to promise big and performs less, it’s better to steer clear of them

8. They warn you about themselves

It might seem romantic in Twilight or when you were 14 with raging hormones and an urge to fix the bad boy. It’s not even a little bit as attractive or healthy as an adult. To make matters worse, intense attraction toward the other clouds our judgment and we end up letting the red flags on dating apps slide. 

  • If someone warns you about themselves, better take their word for it. It’s a huge red flag for men and women alike
  • Did the girl who was clueless about the DC Universe suddenly declare her love for Batman because you did? Or did the self-professed couch potato suddenly come up with stories of running marathons? A minor or major shift in their personality could be a huge red flag you might choose to ignore and end up even adoring
  • When someone tries to impersonate you, your likes and dislikes to impress you, it might be because of their low self-esteem or their reluctance to show you their real self. Whatever the reason might be, it’s neither healthy nor sustainable

9. Sexting – one of the biggest online dating red flags

We get it, we all love to indulge in some hot and heavy texting. Especially with no strings attached in the online dating world. But if it isn’t mutually agreed upon, it’s truly a headache and could even be a violation.

  • If all they ask for is nudes and each message is a subtle prompt to sext, it’s a huge online dating red flag of texting
  • They seem to be constantly moving the conversation toward sex. It’s more crude than flirty since the purpose seems to get them off instead of creating sexual tension

Related Reading: Is Online Dating Easier For Women?

10. They have a strange list of demands

You might have seen (and hopefully swiped left) profiles with a long list of ‘musts’ and ‘must nots’ for potential matches. Quick heads-up, steer clear from these people. From “must be 6 ft and over” to “must have a 6-figure salary,” these demands are often shallow and offensive.

  • Specifying a preference for someone who likes Game of Thrones isn’t bad, but requiring them to have some external feature or something beyond their control is unfair
  • Using the precious space of a dating profile for tacky demands is a glaring red flag. It is crude, impolite, and narcissistic to a point of no return
More on dating apps

Dating Red Flags: How To Protect Yourself On Dating Apps

Since the world shifted online, it’s practically impossible to go back to traditional dating methods or find ways to meet people outside of dating apps. We can be nostalgic about the old times and chivalrous flirting, but that’s long gone now. The best step forward is to equip yourself with safety measures to make online dating a worthwhile experience.

While you don’t have to be on high alert all the time, it’s better to be conscious of things you share and the people you share them with. You have to recognize and avoid online dating red flags to build a bond based on trust and commitment. Here are some basic tips to keep in mind when interacting with a potential love interest online.

1. Keep your privacy intact

While we want to connect and share our lives with people we date, it’s better not to disclose any personal information until you know them well enough. Using fake profiles, scammers and catfishers can easily hack and use your information against you.

  • If you don’t want a Joe Goldberg (of the infamous Netflix series You) scouring your life on Instagram, keep your socials away from the dating profile. 
  • Don’t share any private details. Especially your home address, family background, health records, occupation or bank details, and other essentials

2. Share, but with caution

You can still tell them about your everyday life stories without revealing the specifics of where it happened and with whom. For instance, instead of spilling the beans about a cafe that you love, rave about its meals and aesthetic without revealing the name. It’s better to skip the specifics until you are sure about the identity of the person across the screen.

  • Some red flags when online dating can include social engineering, where a person may ask you seemingly harmless questions to gain your trust and gather information about you. Flirt with boundaries
  • You can mention that you are not comfortable enough to share these details with them. If they get offended, then that’s just another red flag
  • Remove metadata from any photos you share. Hide any recognizable elements from the pictures, like a car plate

3. Make it a no-nude zone

An obvious yet overlooked piece of advice is about the selfies you send strangers on the internet. Mass hackers and privacy policies of social media applications already make sharing nudes a risky endeavor. However, the consequences of sharing it on a dating app with the wrong person can be dire.

  • Before sending nudes, consider this. People can easily save it, forward it, or even blackmail you if things go awry. Moreover, it’s even illegal in certain states if you are underage. It can be a tool to threaten you, extort money, and disrupt your life
  • If they send their nudes as a gesture of faith, you still don’t have to comply to their requests or demands

Related Reading: Sending Nudes? Our Cyber Safety Experts Say You Shouldn’t

4. Verify their identity

It’s also crucial to verify their identity with video calls and their social media profiles. Especially before shifting to a personal app, sharing private information, or meeting up.

  • Make sure you inform a close friend or family about their details before heading off to meet them or before becoming exclusive
  • With the emergence of highly intelligent AI tools, it is extremely easy to create an online identity, let alone a fake profile on Tinder. Most of these scammers prey on lonely people looking for connections. So be very picky about who you date, and do not shy away from confirming the details that they share

5. Recognize red flags and report suspicious profiles

Did you match with someone asking you for financial help? Or did you just scroll over a fake profile that might be using fake photos? 

  • One of the major risks of online dating is that you run into scammers and hackers
  • Swiping left isn’t enough. You should report them and make the app a safer place for everyone

6. Choose a befitting app

Picking the right dating application and being a little cautious goes a long way in the online dating game. It may feel like an unnecessary step but will increase your chances of finding the right person.

  • If you prefer an open relationship, Feeld is a good platform to meet other non-monogamous folks
  • Or you might be part of the LGBTQIA+ community and wish to connect with queer women. In that case, HER social app is queer and trans-friendly and is exclusively for you, among the many other LGBTQIA dating apps
  • It’s also important to consider what sort of relationship you’re looking for. Though popular apps like Tinder and Bumble are used for finding casual and long-term relationships, some apps like EliteSingles are used primarily to look for rich sugar parents

Key Pointers

  • Online dating flags could be repetitive behaviors that suggest dishonest intentions or glaring personality flaws
  • Beware of dating scammers or creeps who can cause financial or personal losses
  • Some warning signs of catfishers and scammers include overstepping boundaries, seeking information with urgency, and asking to meet in nondescript locations
  • Don’t share things about yourself that give away your financial or geographical data, don’t share nudes, and confirm the details of their life as well

Stay true to your values and don’t rush into the risks of online dating by compromising your safety. With some critical thinking and avoidance of online dating red flags, you can stay safe and easily find the love of your life online. Set a pace and space that feels comfortable to truly enjoy dating online!


1. What are some red flags in a guy?

The most prominent red flags in men are love bombing randomly, nagging immaturely, being overly possessive or jealous, ghosting, being extremely attached over a short period of time, and passive-aggressive comments. Besides that, low self-esteem or self-deprecation as well as constant slander or comparison with their ex, or claiming you are “not like other girls” is a huge red flag.

2. What are 3 safe dating tips for a healthy relationship?

The three most important dating tips to keep in mind are communication, independence, and expectations. You should convey your needs, thoughts, and opinions as openly and clearly as possible. Moreover, you should keep an open mind to listen to the other’s opinions as well. Having a life outside the relationship and having realistic expectations also help in having a successful relationship.

3. Is I love you too soon a red flag?

Did your date confess the three magical words one week into the new relationship? Well, pack your bags and run in the other direction. Saying I love you before a period of a few months is absurd and signifies a good chance of attachment issues. Either they are too desperate or are love-bombing you with grand declarations way too soon. Trust your instincts and don’t commit until you truly believe them and feel the same way.

This article has been updated in June, 2023.

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