Dating has become even harder because of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns. But social distancing hasn't done much to dampen people's desire to meet and connect. If anything it might have given this human need it a bit more of an edge. And with Valentine’s Day approaching this edge might have got a little sharper.
Millions of people are registered on dating sites and for sure most of them are genuine. But as ever, in any large pool of people there are going to be fraudsters and criminals making to look a quick hit or carry out a long con in which a victim is defrauded over an extended period. As such it’s fair to say online dating sites have their share of misfits and to help keep you safe here are some simple tips that highly effective.
Share with caution
Don’t share too much personal on a dating app or website. Of course you want to provide a sense of your personality but steer away from information that can identify you personally, such as name, address, place of work and so on. There’s plenty of time for that further down the line if you meet someone and there’s a genuine mutual attraction.
If you provide too much detail there’s a chance your information could be spread around if a site or app is hacked. A based dating app called MeetMindful was recently hacked. Personal data was stolen from approximately 2.2 million people and the information was posted, as a free download, on a hacking forum.
Among the information stolen were real names, email addresses, Facebook user IDs, and birth dates. Other dating-specific information, including marital status, dating preferences and body details, were also leaked. When you register on a site or app you have to provide certain details but keep this to a minimum.
Set up a dedicated email address
Before you register on a dating website or app create an email dedicated solely for dating communications. This creates a safe cyber distance between you and online dating. It will also help make you feel safer. A dedicated email address also keeps your other email address free from junk email. Sometimes a website/app sells your information to a third party who then barrage you with unwanted ads/offers and services.
Use identity protection
Dating websites and apps ideally use strong measures to protect their customer’s payment card details. Behind the scenes companies use data encryption, secure networks and the cloud all of which dovetail with card merchant and bank security processes. However, that said, we don’t live in an ideal world and there’s always the chance payment card data is hacked, and as we know it happens. You can protect yourself from this with the use of identity protection that alerts you
should your payment card details appear for sale on dark web hacker forums and websites.
Beware fake photos and incomplete profiles
Model shots or suggestive photos should ring warning bells. Genuine people are more likely to post a couple of photos of themselves in normal surroundings. If you do think a photo is suspicious you can try a reverse image search to see if a photo has been taken from somewhere else online.
Very little or incomplete information from profiles is also warning sign that things might not be quite right. Genuine people will provide complete profiles such as information about their interests and the sort of person they are looking for. Some scammers, looking for quick hits, generally cast their nets wide and consequently post generic profiles that lack detailed information.
Poor translation can also mean a fake profile. Many romance scams come from abroad where English is not the first language so poor spelling and grammar can be a red flag.
Too good to be true
As with most things online, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Some scammers present polished profiles that put them in a very positive light in terms of occupation, wealth, exotic holiday destinations, international property portfolio, fleets of luxury cars and so on. If it all seems to be a bit of a fairy tale it likely is.
If online chatting goes well the next step, especially in the current circumstances, will likely be video chatting. The problem with this is that even though you may be fresh and shining the video may make you look as though you’ve been sleeping under a bush. To avoid accentuating the blemishes and to highlight the positives put a light behind your camera so it shines in the direction of your face and lift your laptop so the camera is just above your line of sight.