It’s 2023, and dating proves to be just as challenging as ever. With competition, infidelity, and hectic lives and schedules, people find themselves ditching romantic partners and allowing time to focus on and simply be with themselves. Although there is nothing wrong with being single, there comes a time in an individual’s life when they would perhaps like to live a reality where they see themselves with someone. With the constant rise in technology and the growth of AI, which develops further every day, online dating seems to be the way to go.
According to Statista’s Digital Market Insights, by the end of 2023, there are expected to be 441 million active users worldwide utilising the services of online dating platforms. Unfortunately, with this, many scams, dangers, and privacy breaches can occur, so it is crucial to protect yourself and your identity from any potential threat. In addition to protecting yourself from scammers, protecting your network and internet traffic is vital as it blocks scammers and hackers from accessing your details on an even deeper level.
Although it can be quite difficult to understand and know when someone or something (such as an online programme) is a threat and/or scam, it is important to look out for key factors that may help identify a scam. With many users using online dating services, just like social media, the risk of encountering a scammer is quite high. With reference from ExpressVPN, here are the most common types of online dating scams;
- Catfishing (in which a scammer creates a completely false identity – their age, gender, appearance, career, country, location of residence, etc. They attract the interest of the other person and ultimately con them, possibly leading to a tragic ending if both parties decide to meet in person).
- Verification scams (scammers may pretend to be official companies, in this case, Tinder, Grindr or any other official online dating platform and send you a third-party link that you must fill out as the platform is ‘updating their terms and conditions’ or ‘privacy standards and regulations’. You must then fill out personal details such as your name, phone number, social security number, credit card details, or even bank account details, thus, unwillingly passing over private information).
- Malicious software/programme scams (these sorts of scams involve the process in which the scammer supposedly sends you their Facebook and/or Instagram pages for more information about them and for you to get a deeper look into their supposed life. Most times, these pages and links that direct you to their account are not legitimate and are instead websites containing dangerous malware that obtain your private and personal information. This, in turn, can cause financial fraud and identity theft).
- Photo and/or video scams (this involves the scammer requesting intimate and private photos of you, which they can use later for blackmail or public sharing. They may then ask for personal information or money in “negotiation” to remove your private photos from social media and/or their personal use – which is not even guaranteed after sending over this personal information).
These are the most well-known types of scams, amongst other common ones. With a ridiculous number of scams out there that happen daily, you can take steps in being able to prevent these from happening to you. The following can help protect you from falling prey to scammers.
Never under any circumstance, transfer money or details relating to your bank account or credit card. Someone you are speaking to on an online dating app does not require these; if they do, they’re most likely trying to scam you. Another simple tip if you are unsure or just want to be extra safe is to reverse search their profile picture. Many websites allow you to insert and download the photo of the person you are speaking to and check to see if their profile photo is attached to any other account with a different name. If multiple accounts come up under different users sharing the same profile picture, the person you are speaking with is a scam. Stop talking to them immediately. Even if you see potential, don’t share any personal information about yourself. Discussing minor interests, likes, and dislikes is fine as they don’t allow the scammer to know deep and personal things about you, which they can then possibly later use against you. Avoid mentioning the names of friends and loved ones and their relationship to you, as the scammer will be able to get a deeper understanding of who is in your life and how you know them. This ultimately makes it easier for them to track not only you but the people you have told them about as well.
If you have fallen victim to one or more scams whilst using an online dating application, although there is no guarantee, you can still resort to many things that may stop the hacker from continuing to have the liberty to scam other users – including yourself.
- Report the account (like other social media platforms, users have the right to report an account. If the account is of a false identity or is a scammer, users can report the account to the platform, and appropriate measures such as deactivating the account can take place)
- Contact your bank immediately (if you have transferred funds to the scammer via debit, credit, cryptocurrency or other online/digital means, contact your bank to request a transactional refund)
- Stop communicating with them and block the account (as soon as you start seeing suspicious activity, block the account so they cannot contact you further or obtain any money or personal information about you)
- Have evidence of the ordeal (obtaining evidence such as screenshots or screen recordings can be enough to pass over to authoritative figures if money has been lost, discussions of finance have taken place, or inappropriate conversations occurred. Your bank or an authoritative figure may require these to authorise that a scammer has taken your money or is a proven scammer).
Malta is a small country with a smaller population size in comparison to other European countries, but that doesn’t mean online dating isn’t as popular. As told by Start.io, there are 30 658 users in Malta who use online dating apps, with the gender demographic heavily dominated by males. The main age demographic is those between the ages of 25 years and 34 years. It is important to note that these demographics do not confirm or state that these are a hacker’s typical ages or genders. Hackers and scammers can be of any age or gender, residing in any country using a false identity to target.
Below are statistics from Start.io to visually represent the age and gender demographics of online dating platforms in Malta.
No matter which country you are in or the online dating platform you use, scammers and hackers can attack anyone at any given time. It is pivotal that you are fully protected and aware of the service you are using, what information you are putting out and whom you are speaking to.