According to Statista, the online dating sector in the US amounts to $1,389M in 2017. With more and more love being found online, it is important to remember that it’s not all fun and games. The exciting world of online dating can be a perilous one. There are a number of threats aside from a broken heart, including threats to cyber security, identity theft and your general safety.
The best way around such dangers is to familiarize yourself with the shapes and forms that these threats take. Beginning with identity theft, online dating sites have become a common way for thieves to make first contact. More often than not, the most common purpose of identity theft is of a financial nature, however, it can also be with the intention of generating spam and false business in your name. Many dating sites may automatically sync some of your personal information, like contacts or addresses, which may leave you in a very vulnerable position. Despite the wealth of information online about identity theft, it is far easier than you can imagine to fall victim to it, especially when emotions are involved.
There are various aspects of online dating that may easily disguise cybercrime. Firstly, there are a number of fake dating apps out there that are created with the sole purpose of recording all your private data. The next issue is the integral role that location services play with many dating apps – this could later be used as an unfortunate invasion of privacy. The major threat when it comes to cybercrime comes down to something quite simple: strangers asking for cash from other strangers. What online dating does, as opposed to gaming or e-commerce, is it plays more so on people’s emotions, and the manipulation thereof. Here’s what Mark James, the IT Security Specialist at ESET had to say: “One of the biggest problems in communication over the internet or mobile devices is we lose that face to face interaction, that body language that tells us something is wrong. All we see are visually pleasing images and words that are represented quite often by our own feelings”.
There have been many issues in the past whereby a number of dating sites have spread malware and malicious content. This is particularly common around about Valentines Day. Whether it occurs via conspicuous ads, private messages or externally-linked profile information, without sufficient antivirus protection, it can be quite the harmful ambush.
Tips for safe practice
- Fake profiles: Be on the alert for fake users. Look out for things like unnatural syntax, no profile pictures, coming on too strong, hesitancy to meet or living/working abroad and unable to meet.
- Secure your profile: Be aware of all information you display on your profile. Do not include personal data such as your full name, address, place of work, phone number or email address.
- Money requests: Any money request you receive on a dating app is almost always a red flag for fraudulent activity. Do not succumb to such requests, especially during the early stages of getting to know someone.
- Location services: Proceed with caution when it comes to allowing a dating app access to your location services – remember that users can then see when exactly there is nobody at home.
- Block/report abusers: If you suspect fraudulent activity, always make sure to take the time to block or report it.
- First meetings: When meeting for the first time, make sure to do so in a safe public place, tell a friend and have your wits about you.