Top Safety Tips for Online Dating in 2020
COVID-19 has forced many people into the safety of their own homes, reducing social interaction. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to connect to others from your couch, including online dating apps.
However, dating apps contain a plethora of risks, a few which are listed down below.
The Major Risks
What if the person you’re talking to isn’t who they say they are? What if they constantly refuse to video call you or see you in person? How can you verify their identity?
Well, you can’t. Many people on online dating apps or websites fall for a scam called “catfishing”. Catfishing is when someone pretends they are someone else, often using photos of famous online influencers in order to trick people into giving them money, gifts, and other desirables.
However, not every romance scam comes in the form of catfishing. Some online dating profiles exist solely to scam lovesick individuals into giving them money and gifts, just like catfishing. However, some of these scams are more similar to phishing scams.
These scammers make up excuses as to why they can’t visit, such as them being deployed in a foreign country or being stationed on an oil rig/military base/etc. They may use their real identities, but the goal is the same: get as much money out of the victim as possible.
Romance scams are unfortunately very common on dating apps, so be careful about who you’re talking to and verify the truthfulness of their stories.
Not all scams rely on innocent-looking profiles and seduction. No, some scammers prefer threats and extortion over seduction. And this is where sextortion scams happen.
Sextortion scammers, also known as blackmailers, threaten users—either through email or phone—to give them a moderate sum of money. If the victim fails to pay the scammer, the scammer will then threaten to release a video of the victim doing inappropriate acts.
There are two forms of sextortion scams: fake and real. Fake sextortion scams are when cybercriminals grab an old password of yours from a website data leak and say they’ve hacked your computer and have video of you committing inappropriate acts in front of your webcam.
These are fake.
Real sextortion scams, however, happen when a scammer catfishes a user, convinces them to perform these indecent acts on a webcam, then record the video and threaten the user to pay up afterwards.
How to Protect Yourself from Online Dating Dangers
There are steps you can take to protect yourself while online dating. Let’s go over a few:
- Replace your IP address with a VPN to limit the amount of data a scammer could potentially collect
- Use a Google Voice number instead of your real phone number (at first)
- Always meet in a public area for your first meetup to avoid potential harm
- Verify their identity and talk to them for a few weeks before handing out personal information.
Doing all of these will prevent any scammer or cybercriminal to extort you, scam you, or catfish you.