52% Say Loneliness Around Valentine’s Day Makes Them Vulnerable To Catfishers, Research Reveals

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ESET urges people to be vigilant when online dating, or risk falling for catfishers

  • 41% of consumers believe that they face more cyber security risks when online dating around Valentine’s Day
  • 71% don’t do background searches before meeting their date from online dating sites
  • 55% of over 55s worry more about their cyber security than 16 to 24-year-olds
  • Over two-thirds (69%) of Brits are concerned about their cyber security, but many don’t know how to protect themselves online

52% of people say that loneliness around Valentine’s Day makes them more susceptible to catfish scams. This is according to the Catphishing awareness campaign by ESET, a global cybersecurity company, that surveyed over 2,000 people across the UK to uncover their cybersecurity habits. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the increasing threat of scams to both individuals and businesses.

The Catphishing campaign reveals that despite the rise in cybercrime, only 29% of respondents said they carried out basic background searches on the people they talk to on dating sites- whether this is searching on Facebook, Google, Twitter, or other platforms. The number drops dramatically in older age ranges, as less than one in five (18%) of over-55s say that they carry out background searches, making them more likely to be catfished. This is regardless of the fact that 69% of respondents say they are concerned about their online security, and 13% admitting that using online dating sites or apps makes them more vulnerable.

Commenting on the findings, Jake Moore, Cybersecurity Specialist at ESET, said: “It’s disheartening to see so many bad actors taking advantage of vulnerable and lonely people around Valentine’s Day. When emotions are at play, individuals often lose focus of what they need to do to keep themselves safe online, and so can fall victim to scammers who are pretending to be someone that they’re not.

The sheer number of profiles found on dating sites, combined with the speed at which online relationships can develop, provides an ideal breeding ground for catfish- people who pretend to be someone they’re not in order to scam and exploit those looking for love. The consequences of this can be extreme, as scammers may steal their victims’ identities, lure them into dangerous situations, or defraud them of thousands of pounds.

Yet, very few people know what to do to help minimise the risks of online dating. While some catfish scams are very sophisticated, you often don’t need to be an expert to recognise them. This can be as quick and easy as searching the name of the individual on another social media site or search engine, or refusing to exchange sensitive personal information over the internet.

If someone you’ve never met in person asks you for money, alarm bells should start ringing immediately. Catfishers are excellent storytellers and can tell a very convincing tale about why they need the money. They will remain focused on your emotions, so it is vital to stay detached when money is at stake. It might be a small request at first- like the cost of a train ticket to come and see you- but typically, once they know you’re willing to give them cash, the frequency and amount will rise. Never send money to anyone you haven’t met and if they are genuine, they will understand.”


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