Spot the Bots from the Mots


As more of us move to dating apps in search of the one, a bitta fun, or something in between, The Outmost’s Niamh Griffin warns of spambots and shows you how to stay safe and appy.


The dangers of online dating have long been reported in the media and pontificated on by older generations. ‘There’s none stranger than the strangers on the net.’ We’ve all heard the tale of the lonely lady who met a lovely lad for a shift and glass of Guinness, only to discover he was after something much murkier. As the years passed, the stories grew more sinister. And the secretive nature of many LGBT relationships made our community one of the most at risk.

In February of this year, the media reported that men and women in were posing on Tinder, Plenty of Fish and Grindr, with the aim of getting gay men and lesbians alone in secluded areas of Cork city to carry out assaults. Only last week in London, Stephen Port was charged wth murdering four men he met on Grindr after inviting them back to his flat and poisoning them with the party drug GHB. He is yet to be convicted.
Yes, we all know it is a sinister world out there. But according to a survey by Irish Life last year, it is a world 24% of the brave Irish public had dared to venture.
For most, the experience is at best a meeting of minds, hearts and genitalia, and at worst a sideways dodge and an unanswered text. The general consensus is that if you follow these few simple guidelines you’ll survive with nothing more than an ego bruising and perhaps a Tinder wrist strain:
  • Tell a friend where you’re off to.
  • Never meet your match in a deserted flat.
  • Don’t get so intoxicated you forget the number for 999

At least that *was* the stay safe code. In recent years, new dangers have emerged. Dangers not even coded, when we first chose our five fittest Facebook profilers and wrote a 500-character caption to capture ticks on Tinder.

Recent years saw the rise of the Spam Bots
This is a software application that runs automated tasks over the Internet. Those on dating apps are designed to lure users to malicious websites in an attempt to install a virus on the device being used or steal data.

The early bots were easy to detect. When they first hit Tinder and Grindr, they presented themselves as sex workers. They posed provocatively and were overlaid with fake price lists and links to porn sites or webcam services. Visitors were then encouraged to give credit card details in order to verify their age. Once the site had your credit card information, you were automatically signed up for their expensive premium rate services.

This year, in particular, the spam bots have dramatically evolved and multiplied.


They now use cute girl/boy-next-door-style pictures. The more sophisticated bots have been programmed to mimic a normal conversation. Their scripts are more natural and flirtatious. They respond slower to messages, making them seem more human-like. Instead of simply asking you to visit a site, they engage you in flirty or empathetic conversation then ask you for your number. Often they will pass this data on for a fee.




In one widely reported incident last year, a set of Tinder spambots masqueraded as women to encourage matches to download the mobile game Castle Clash. The profiles spammed users with the promise that they would date the men who could beat them at the game.

Spambots exist to make money. Typically they do this by including referral codes in the links they send. The scammer will get paid for sending new users to the sites they are promoting, even if the user does not sign up for the service. However, if they *can* convince the user to sign up for a premium service, even better! The bot can get paid up to €7 per new registration.

Other, less sinister but also annoying fake profiles exist to advertise products. Many do it with the endorsement of Tinder and Grindr. Bud Light, Dominos, and The TV series, The Mindy Project, use Tinder, very effectively, as a marketing tool.

Charities also use dating apps to send positive messages. In 2014, The Immigrant Council of Ireland used Tinder to spread their anti-trafficking message. They set up a fake profile of a young girl. As the user flicked through her photographs, the images grew increasingly younger until it was clear she was underage. The final image identified that the entire profile was a coax set up to highlight sex trafficking in Ireland.

When legitimate advertising is allowed on apps the only way for the user to avoid it is by paying to upgrade to a premium package. However, when criminal spambots occur we should not accept them.

As soon as you realise you’ve been spambotted, report it to Tinder, Grindr, POF etc. Instagram the profile, Tweet about it, blog about it, moan about it. The more people who know to avoid ‘Kimberley, 26,’ the fewer victims she will spam. (Apologies to all genuine, 24-year-old Kims).
Tinder and Grindr have both issued statements that admit they are aware of bots lurking on their apps. Grindr claims they devote significant engineering resources and expertise to addressing the spam bot issue. Tinder says spam prevention is now their number one priority.
It is true that tech companies are not complacent about spambots. Statements from the organisations behind these apps have repeatedly made promises to tighten security, remove spam accounts and constantly challenge and defeat bots.
However, the bots are multiplying and gaining intelligence. They will not be easy to eradicate, so beware. As the war continues, follow these simple steps to swipe right (and stay appy).

How to spot a Bot!

Bots have no friends and no hobbies

Check to see if you have any interests or friends in common. Bots don’t even pretend to be part of a hiking club.

Avoid the Eager Beaver

If she keenly suggests you click on a link so you can continue your steamy convo, think twice. Most bots will quickly try to talk outside the app.

Beware of the 3ft Stud

Last year thousands of studs appeared on Grindr offering the ride of your life. In a technical flaw, many of the bots were listed as standing less than 3ft in  height.

Note the Number

If it’s not your average 085, 086,087, or 089 – don’t text.

Use your Cop On

You’ve never seen that 5ft8  leggy blonde hanging around Crush. Never noticed her at Mother? Well, then she probably isn’t living just 3km down the road and looking to hook up right now.

© 2015 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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