Sextortion Scams Plague LGBTQ+ Dating Apps​ | #lovescams | #datingapps



Ari Ezra Waldman, a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University, spent three years studying dating platforms for gay men and interviewed hundreds of users. Waldman, who is gay, says he did so because it’s important to protect the gay community not only from haters on the outside but from predators within. The FTC’s warning was “overdue,” he adds.

Hostile local communities are among the reasons gays turn to dating on cyberspace, he says.

Waldman says LGBTQ+ adults have the freedom to send graphic selfies and counsels against victim blaming. Still, he suggests users share graphic images only after they can trust the person they are communicating with  — and only on platforms that take steps to protect privacy. Waldman faults some but not all LGBTQ+ dating sites for selling users’ data, including their HIV status, for a profit. 

Grindr silent on number of complaints

Grindr, headquartered in West Hollywood, California, would not say how many sextortion complaints it had received. Instead, it issued a statement: “We are disturbed and disappointed to hear of scams targeting elders, queer people, or anyone. Grindr is committed to maintaining an open platform for the LGBTQ+ community … and we continually take steps to facilitate a safe experience.”

Grindr lists “prohibited” conduct in its 41-page terms of service: stalking, harassing, abusing, defaming, threatening or defrauding others. It says, though, that it does not conduct criminal or background screenings of users nor verify identities.

The company also pointed to its Scam Awareness Guide, Holistic Security Guide and safety tips.​ Feeld, based in London, did not respond to requests for comment.

Sextortion reported to AARP

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network helpline, 877-908-3360, has heard from victims of sextortion that arose on dating apps including those for LGBTQ+ adults. “All have an inherent risk of criminals lurking behind fake profiles to steal,” says Amy Nofziger, who oversees the helpline and urges daters not to share intimate photos with people they don’t know. “It might seem like harmless, provocative fun, but there are criminals out there targeting people looking for lust and love.”

Before sharing, Nofziger recommends considering how you would feel if what you sent appeared on Page 1 of your newspaper. “If you hesitate, don’t send it,” she says.

Tips from the FTC:

  • Check out to whom you’re talking. Do a reverse-image search of the person’s photo. (You can use a site such as images.google.com.) If the photo is associated with another name or details don’t match up, that’s a sign of a scam.
  • Don’t share personal information such as your cell number, email or social-media profile with someone you just met on an app. 
  • Don’t pay scammers to destroy photos or conversations; there’s no guarantee they will. The FBI does not condone paying online extortion demands.
  • Remember, once you share photos, you can’t take them back.

The FTC says if you think someone is trying to extort you, report it to the agency and a local FBI office or the bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, ic3.gov.



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