The Dangers of Online Dating
The internet has revolutionized many aspects in our lives, from online shopping, our access to knowledge, to our ability to communicate with other people.
One of the biggest revolutions is without a doubt online dating. There are literally thousands of dating websites, such as match.com, OKCupid, Plenty of Fish, as well as more “goal-oriented” services such as Tinder and Grindr.
Finding love and companionship isn’t only limited to these sites, too, as many people also connect through popular social media sites such as Facebook.
Indeed, the web has made it easier than ever to find your one true love, or just a fling, all without leaving the couch.
However, as in everything on the internet, online dating is not without its risks – and the dangers of online dating don’t come in the form of just meeting up a psychopath for a date (or worse, end up marrying them).
What are the dangers of online dating?
Cybercriminals have learned a while back that dating sites and the pretense of romance can be used to launch scams and generate a hefty profit.
One of the main methods of scamming people on dating websites is through “Romance scams”.
We’ve already covered this scam in one of our previous articles last year, however it deserves another mention.
In romance scams, fraudsters create fake accounts, or “avatars”. They fill out all the needed information to make each fake account appear as real as possible and make sure to upload a photo of a very attractive individual.
Then, they’d approach members of the dating site and start a conversation with them.
The goal of the criminal would be to form a relationship between the “avatar” and the potential victim. The relationship would be exclusively online and – extremely important – long distance. Usually, the fraudster behind the fake “avatar” would claim that they come from a poor family.
The sting would come when the criminal feels that the relationship that was formed is strong enough (oftentimes after the victim reveals he has feelings towards the “avatar”).
At that point, the “avatar” would ask the victim for some money to pay for a flight – so they could finally meet.
Naturally, once the criminal gets the money from the victim – they disappear, along with their “avatar”, leaving a heartbroken victim.
In some cases, criminals don’t even bother creating fake accounts. They simply create accounts for themselves and follow the same guidelines (in most cases, the fraudsters themselves come from poor countries, so they fit that story as well).
The assumption is that there would always be at least one person on the site that would be interested in forming a relationship with them.
By using their own persona, they also open up the possibility of using webcam and phone for communicating with their victim, further building trust and feeling of companionship.
The following video is a great example of how one man, Paul, was scammed into paying out roughly $200,000 through a romance scam.
Romance scams, however, are not the only threat that exists in the online dating scene.
Video chats scams
A more recent and much more abusive scam is perpetrated by criminals these days on sites or apps that offer video chats.
The fraudster, or someone working on their behalf (usually a woman), would initiate a webcam chat with a victim of the other gender.
They would then proceed to convince the victim to take off their clothes in a video sex chat.
After the victim gets undressed and potentially shows their “private parts” to the camera the fraudster simply announces that they recorded the session and if they would not receive certain amount of ransom money, the video would be shared with all of the victim’s friends (the fraudster asks for a link to the victim’s social media account in advance).
Protect yourself from the Dangers of Online Dating
So how does one remain safe from cybercriminals while dating online? as with preventing victimization from other types of scams – familiarity.
- Be aware that certain accounts in online dating sites may be fake.
- If someone approaches you from a poor country and at any point (even after months have passed and you are already madly in love) is asking you for money – this is most likely isn’t going to end well.
- Say “no” and see what happens. If they leave you, well, not only have you saved yourself a bigger heartache, but also a major financial loss.
- Whether you’re a guy or a girl, know that every photo that you send, every video that you take (even a “real time” video such as the one in a chat) can be recorded and later used against you.
- People who are eager to see you naked online usually have nefarious intentions – whether you are a girl or a boy.
For many reasons, those who participate in this game of online dating should be cautious.
The threat posed by cybercriminals is not much different. Caution, common sense and familiarity with the threats that exist is an excellent way of remaining secure.
Good luck in finding that special someone!