Charity Victim Support has warned that organised criminals will be exploiting loneliness during lockdown to take money from romance scam victim.
The warning has highlighted some of the threats that online daters are exposed to. With people using their devices more than ever to remain connected during the current pandemic, users need to remain vigilant to the activity of these cybercriminals.
Online dating tends to go hand-in-hand with being looked up on social media – a key way for a cyber-criminal to find personal information about a victim.
Leading cybersecurity company McAfee has discovered that:
- 15% of Brits have either been a victim of a romance scam or know someone else who has
- Half (50%) of those who’ve fallen victim to a romance scam have been scammed of over £1000, with 70% of victim admitting they were scammed by clicking on a weblink
- More than a quarter (26%) of people have had their social media and emails hacked into, with one in 10 (10% stating that an ex has logged into their accounts without permission – 8% of people went to the police as a result)
- Facebook is still the most popular way to look up an ex (53%) or romantic interest (63%), making it more than twice as popular as Instagram.
Raj Samani, Chief Scientist and McAfee Fellow, said: “Online dating has become the norm and it’s wise to attempt to verify a love interest’s identity before perusing the connection further – daters need to consider what and how much information they’re sharing.
“If their personal information gets into the wrong hands, it can be used to paint a detailed picture of them and offer direct access into their lives.
“It’s important to watch out for any red flags and be aware of the information you may be sharing with your online connection.
“Whilst we continue to live in lockdown, our digital devices have become our primary way of staying connected. Every day, people share streams of information about themselves online for others, including potential love interests, to see – without considering the risks of their digital footprint.
“For example, our research has shown that 60% of people disclose their location in some form when posting online, and even more concerning is that 15% have posted photos of the front of their house to social media.
“Restricting who’s able to view your personal information, such as your date of birth and the photos you share, will help ensure that only people you know and trust are able to access details that can put your identity at risk and be used by cybercriminals to conduct fraudulent activity.
“If you have any concerns about the safety of your online dating activity, or general online safety, Victim Support offers free, confidential advice via the Victim Support line on 08 08 16 89 111 and or live chat which are both open for 24 hours every day”
Tips from McAfee about how to protect your information online:
- Watch out for geo-tagging. Many social networks will tag a user’s location when uploading a photo, as well as offering users the option to tag their location when posting. You should ensure this feature is turned off to avoid disclosing your location to criminals or people you would not want to know your whereabouts.
- Don’t overshare on social media. Oversharing online can paint a picture of us very quickly. Keep sensitive data such as your date of birth, address, job, or names of family members private. Also, rethink whether you really want your relationship status made public.
- Sharing is not always caring. Only share photos and other social media posts with your intended audience. If you have blocked an individual, make sure they stay out of your social media feeds. Services like Facebook and Instagram have features that allow posts to be viewed only by confirmed connections. Check your privacy settings regularly, as they often change.
- Be careful who you befriend online. Only accept friend requests from people you know in real life. Often hackers or criminals will send requests so they can see the information you are sharing to help them access your private information.
- Set up unique logins for each app you are using. Setting up a different password for each app or account you use is a great way to protect yourself and your data online. If you no longer use a social media account, delete your information and deactivate your account