Survey says online dating is still risky business

  • Online stalking is something too many online daters have experienced.
  • A survey conducted by Kaspersky found that all manner of ills had been experienced by those looking for love.
  • In addition, Fortinet has noted that romance scams are becoming more frequent.

The days when two people would lock eyes across a crowded room and fall in love are gone. In fact, we’re not sure this ever happened outside of a movie, to be honest. Today, romance happens online for a large portion of people. As we explored in our most recent episode of Always Online, online dating is fraught with problems from bots to high prices, but there is yet more reason to approach online dating with caution.

A survey of 21 000 people from around the world commissioned by Kaspersky highlighted the dangers of finding romance in the digital halls of the internet.

As many as 23 percent of respondents said that they had experienced some form of online stalking from a person they had just started dating. More concerning is that 10 percent of respondents had had their location tracked, 10 percent had their social media or email accounts hacked and 7 percent had stalkerware installed on their devices.

“The Internet of Things, or connected world is brilliant and offers a myriad of possibilities. But with opportunity comes threats and one of those threats of a connected world is the ease of access to traceable data which leaves us vulnerable to abuse,” explains principal security researcher at Kaspersky, David Emm. “Whilst the blame for these horrific behaviours never lies with stalking victims, unfortunately there is still a burden upon them to take steps to minimise risks. I think it’s great that people are taking steps to verify identities online, but would encourage people to just stop and do a quick sense check on any information, passwords or data they share, to just think through how that information could be used in nefarious hands.”

Data from the survey also highlights that female respondents were more likely to be the target of abuse. As many as 42 percent of female respondents said they had experienced abuse from a partner compared to just 36 percent of men responding in the same way. As for stalking, women tend to be more worried about online stalking (36 percent) compared to men (31 percent).

What we found interesting is that looking up a potential partner on social media or conducting a Google search is very common with 34 percent of respondents saying its a form of due diligence and 41 percent of respondents saying they conduct a search when they start dating a new partner.

Of course, other dangers lurk online including romance scammers.

“So-called romance scammers typically create fake profiles to interact with users, build a relationship, and ultimately manipulate them to extract money,” says Doros Hadjizenonos, Regional Director at Fortinet.

The director explains that through the use of AI, romance scammers could become more convincing by using the likes of ChatGPT to write poems, letters, or even using generative AI to fake photos. This could lead to a victim potentially losing millions to a scammer who convinces you to send them money for whatever reason.

“People need to be very cautious online. They should think twice about sharing personal information, sending people money or private photos, or entertaining offers related to get-rich-quick schemes. They should also make use of the platform’s privacy settings and research their love interest’s social media footprint – if there’s no history and just one photo, this should be a red flag,” Hadjizenonos explains. “Scammers often steal other people’s profile pictures, so a reverse image search may indicate whether the new contact is who they say they are.”

The director goes on to highlight the following red flags which may signal that somebody is a romance scammer.

  • Love bombing: Rapid declarations of love, discussions of marriage, and excessive flattery.
  • Distance: Persistent excuses for being unable to meet in person, such as remote work locations, living in another country, military postings, or frequent travel, along with a reluctance to engage in phone or video calls.
  • Requests for money: Initial small requests that gradually escalate to larger sums.
  • Unsolicited investment advice: Claims of being a skilled investor and promises to help make easy money.
  • Drama: Seeking urgent financial assistance under the pretense of a medical emergency, accident, arrest, or other unforeseen events, often accompanied by a plausible explanation for their inability to access their funds.
  • Requests for explicit photos: Seeking private photos that could be exploited for extortion.
  • Inconsistencies in communication style: Multiple scammers taking turns to manipulate the victim.”

Above all, trust your gut and if you can’t see the forest for the trees, talk to a friend. Stay safe out there this Valentine’s Day or any day where you happen to be searching for love.

[Image – David from Pixabay]


About Author


Related News