Online dating – once the ugly cousin of the dating world – is now hitting it off, especially for younger generations. In fact, Pew Research Center claims that while 3-in-10 Americans overall have used an online dating service, that number is much higher for Americans aged 18-29 (48%).
As with any digital innovation, cybersecurity concerns soon follow. In fact, 46% of Americans agree that safety on dating apps is poor, if not unsafe entirely. Whether it be catfishing, blackmail or fraud, there are many scams making the rounds on dating sites. After all, you never really know if someone you talk to online is a security risk, not to mention the vulnerabilities of the apps and websites themselves.
Best practices for posting on dating apps
Tinder – one of the most popular dating apps in the world – lacked basic HTTP encryption as recently as 2018, according to Wired. Though they’ve since patched the glaring problem, this issue left users vulnerable to outsiders witnessing every action they made on the app. For this reason, it’s imperative those who do use online dating apps follow a few best practices:
Don’t include identifying information in your profile
This is key when it comes to protecting your privacy online. Yes, the point of online dating is to make a connection, but it’s best not to overshare your personal information to a malicious phony. If you reveal too much, a bad actor could use that to identify you – or worse – your location.
Be wary of the images you share on your profile
If you use photos of yourself that have been previously shared on social media, it’s not hard for a scammer to confirm your identity. Screenshots of pictures and conversations are often used to blackmail victims once their identity has been confirmed. According to research, most dating apps require a profile picture; others, like Mamba, allow you to reveal images only to users of your choice.
Verify someone’s identity before meeting them in person
Never take a match’s word at face value. Verify what they’ve shared with you and on their profile. The FBI recommends running a reverse image search of their pictures to confirm they aren’t using someone else’s photos.
Tips for staying safe while online dating
Online daters are often the target of romance scams – when a criminal uses the illusion of a romantic relationship to scam the victim out of money or information. They may or may not use a fake identity to do so, but in any case it’s important for users to know how to avoid falling prey to bad actors.
Never send a match or suitor money for any reason
This is a telltale sign that you’re being manipulated. One woman, according to Marketwatch, depleted her life savings of $200,000 when she sent it to a man she believed to be an American soldier stationed in Syria. By the time the FBI indicted the scammers in 2019, they’d already stolen at least $46 million in romance scams.
Don’t link your social media accounts to your dating profile
Likewise, don’t share your phone number, either. This could give away too much information that a scammer could use against you, whether it be doxing, hacking or blackmail. Worse yet, if your dating profile is compromised it may soon put your other accounts at risk.
Cut off communication if they won’t meet in person
This is a good indication of shady behavior. Even if you’ve talked to a suitor for a long time, until you’ve verified their identity they can’t be trusted. It’s best to end things as soon as they start acting suspicious.
Be careful which apps you choose
Generally, larger dating services are more reputable. Research their history, reputation and thoroughly dig through their cybersecurity history for data leaks or breaches in the past.