Coping with Covid-19 lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and social distancing has been pretty gruelling on many of us. The pandemic has deeply affected our social lives, and it’s those who are single and ready to mingle that are feeling the brunt of the pandemic.
Dating is hard even during normal times. Dating during Covid is almost impossible when you throw in a highly contagious virus plus social distancing mandates and other government directives meant to eliminate the spread of the deadly virus.
However, some have still managed to find a rare bright spot in the midst of a frightening global event that’s causing intense loneliness for many. Online dating has taken off since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic in March. Popular online dating app Tinder saw a record 3 billion swipes on March 29.
Overall, there’s been over 20 percent increase in online dating since the onset of the pandemic.
Risks of Online Dating
Single people all over the world are turning to dating apps in large numbers. Usually, online dating means putting yourself out there in the hope of meeting a partner with whom you can develop a meaningful connection. You often have to reveal personal details such as your name, location, job title, et cetera on apps such as eHarmony, OkCupid, Tinder, and Grindr. Some share way more than that.
The problem is that some of these apps are not as careful with this data as much as we’d like to think, exposing users to a wide range of cyber risks. Below, we look at some of the most common risks associated with online dating.
Most of the reputable dating apps out there such as Transdr, Friends with Benefits, Mingler, ChristiansFinder, OkCupid, CougarDating, etc. prioritize data security. However, despite their due diligence, there have been incidents of data breaches and hacking where user information such as emails, addresses, names, and payment information has been made public. Last year, OkCupid experienced a surge in accounts getting hacked prompting a swift response from the company.
Online Dating Scams
Online scammers are experts at creating fake profiles and then using them to build trust and rapport with their victims. With so many people looking to build relationships with people they meet online, which requires building trust, it’s easy to see how someone can become a victim of online dating scams. Cybercriminals are eager to take advantage of your quest for love and steal money from you. If someone you are talking to on a dating app keeps asking you for money, that’s a red flag.
Webcam blackmail is one of the most common forms of cybercrime in the online dating arena. After a period of increasing familiarity with someone on an online dating platform, you create a relationship. You and your ‘partner’ agree to perform sexual acts on webcam, which usually includes taking off your clothes, only to find out that you are being recorded and your cyber partner is a member of a cybercriminal gang. The criminals threaten to post the video online unless you pay them.
How to Ensure Your Safety While Online Dating
Online dating platforms give singles access to a vast dating pool, but they can be a dangerous place if you are not careful. Dating apps and websites are wrought with romance scammers, fraudsters, and hackers looking to exploit your quest for love. The ongoing pandemic, which has driven more people to dating apps, has only made things worse.
Below, find some tips on how to protect yourself when online dating. Read on.
Be Sparing with Personal Information
People share personal information such as their full name and home address too easily when dating online. Sharing sensitive information on a dating app is risky behaviour as it exposes you to a wide range of risks. Placing sensitive information about yourself in the public domain can lead you to harm if the data was to fall in the wrong hands. Limit the amount of information you put out there to mitigate the risk of a breach.
Avoid Webcam Blackmail
Oversharing sensitive data on online dating apps and sites is a huge security risk as it exposes you to threats such as webcam blackmail. Don’t allow yourself to be lured into compromising situations such as performing intimate acts on a webcam or taking off your clothes. You don’t know who sees the images, and what they’ll be used for. In some cases, people you meet online are not who they say they are.
Keep the Chatting on the Dating Platform
Don’t be too quick to move the conversation off of the dating platform to more personal communication channels such as instant messaging or email. Be cautious if the person you are talking to on the dating app wants to move the conversation off the platform, this is a red flag and they could be a cybercriminal.
Be Cautious of People Who Don’t Want to Meet in Real Life
Typically, a scammer or a cybercriminal you meet on/via a dating site will never want to meet in real life. Their goal is to keep you talking long enough to convince you to send them money and then disappear. No matter how long you have been talking online, an online dating cyber scammer will come up with a bunch of reasons not to meet up in real life.
Use a VPN
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect your data on online dating apps. A VPN masks your IP address and encrypts your internet traffic when browsing online dating websites. A VPN will keep your personal information such as your location and browsing activity hidden, no matter the tools the person on the other end of the chat window has. Simply download a VPN app to protect yourself on online dating platforms.
Online dating apps and websites are key places for online criminals, scammers, and fraudsters to exploit people who are earnestly looking for love for illicit financial gain. Online dating apps are seeing more traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic, which means the cybercriminals are working overtime. Take the aforementioned steps to protect yourself from data theft, blackmail, and financial loss when dating online.