- Cybercriminals and scammers leverage the search for love to take advantage of targets.
- Fake apps and websites can be used to monitor targets or extract personal information.
- Scammers can also play the long con and gain the confidence of a target before doxing them or exploiting them financially.
Online dating is fraught with dangers both monetary and mentally and being aware of those dangers is vital in protecting oneself while searching for love.
Looking for love online in 2023 is very different from when it first became popular in the 90s. For one the market is massive. Insight from Statista reveals that the online dating market generated $2.86 billion in revenue in 2022. By 2027 it’s expected that 440 million people will take their search for a partner online.
This then, is a lucrative target for scammers and cybercriminals.
One of the ways ne’er-do-wells take advantage of folks is through the use of fake dating apps that look like the real thing. The difference here is that these fake apps offer some sort of lure such as access to premium features.
Rather than those features, these apps distribute adware or spyware. Adware bombards a user with adverts. Worse still, some adware can hide itself from the user making it hard for them to remove it. As regards spyware, an attacker could sit silently and monitor your activity and worse.
Dating websites are also something cybercriminals leverage although they simply clone popular sites in a bid to get users to key their credentials into a phishing website. Should a user fall prey to such a phishing website and have their financial information linked to their real account, the attacker could commit fraud using that information. Furthermore, that data could be sold on the dark web.
The dangers of online dating aren’t only restricted to fake apps and websites. Some scammers will go full Tinder Swindler in order to gain a target’s trust.
It’s important then to guard yourself against doxing and catfishing.
Doxing is the act of revealing a person’s personal information including but not limited to their physical address, where they work, family information and even their financial data. This data can be collated and then sold on nefarious forums. Be sure to avoid revealing too much personal information and be as vague as possible until you can be sure you trust the person responding.
Catfishing is simply where a person pretends to be somebody they aren’t. This is a scam so old that movies and TV shows have been made about it but it worked then and it still works now.
“Unfortunately, not all connections are as genuine as they seem. Kaspersky telemetry records numerous spam emails that use attractive profiles and fake identities to lure unsuspecting victims into providing personal information or engaging in online communications. These emails can spread malware, steal sensitive information, or scam victims out of their money,” Kaspersky said in a statement sent to Hypertext.
“They can also lead to emotional distress and disappointment, as victims may form emotional connections with the fake identities before realising they’ve been scammed. This can also have huge negative effects on mental health and well-being,” it added.
The cybersecurity firm advises that those who match with somebody online do their due diligence. Run a Google search and see if you can find their social media profiles to verify if they are a real person or indeed who they say they are.
What’s more, if you decide to meet on Valentine’s Day or any other day for that matter, be sure to go to a public space where you feel safe. Inform family and friends about where you’re going and who you’re going with. We also highly recommend downloading an app such as Namola just as a precaution.
Above all, trust your instincts. If something sounds or feels off, walk away.
“The beauty of online dating is the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world, but with that comes the risk of cybercrime. Stay safe by using secure connections, keeping your personal information private, and being cautious of unsolicited requests. By being proactive, you can protect yourself and have a fulfilling online dating experience,” comments privacy and security expert at Kaspersky, Anna Larkina.