Since the Coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent government quarantine directives and lockdowns, online dating has gone up a notch higher. Dating sites and apps, which were not as popular before the COVID pandemic, suddenly find themselves flooded with overwhelming subscriptions.
The more popular these sites become, the more risks involved. Scammers use old scams and modify them to suit the times or come up with new ones. The most common scams include:
● Romance Frauds
Among the different types of catfishing, romance frauds rank among the most common. In this type of scam, the scammers watch and target vulnerable individuals such as widows, widowers, or recent divorcees.
Hundreds of people have fallen into this trap where scammers create bogus online identities or steal other people’s identities. The scammers in these situations claim to work in jobs that force them to travel for long periods. The most common excuses are the military, NGOs, or oil rigs. After engaging their victim for some time and earning their trust, the scammer asks for money in an elaborate scheme that is very convincing.
● Webcam Blackmail
Webcam blackmail is also known as sextortion. In this type of scam, the scammers approach their victim and create a romantic type of relationship. Once the victim trusts the scammer enough, the scammer convinces the victim to perform sexual acts while recording on their webcam. The scammers use these recordings to blackmail the victims, who pay up for fear of being exposed.
● Phishing Scams
In a phishing scam, the scammers try to trick you into divulging your sensitive personal details such as credit card details, usernames, passwords or banking details. The scammers first gain your trust, and slowly fish for information so they can phish or steal your details and use them to steal from you.
How to keep safe while dating online
1. Use a VPN
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is an excellent way to access dating sites or apps anonymously. Hiding your IP address with a VPN and masking your real location ensures your privacy. VPNs are encryption masters, and all your communication is encrypted, ensuring nobody can snoop on your transmission.
2. Do not reveal too much information
While chatting with someone you have just met on a dating app or site, avoid revealing too much information about yourself. This includes places you frequent, or where you and your family members live.
3. Chat on phone before meeting
After meeting someone for the first time on an app or site, it is wise to make a phone call before the first date. A phone call allows you to hear the other person’s voice and pick up on specific nuances and verbal cues that might not be apparent on chat. A phone call also allows you to know the other person slightly better before the first date.
4. Meet in a public place
When meeting someone new for the first or second date, meet in a public place. The meeting place should have as many people as possible such as a café, bar, or restaurant. Meeting in a public spot is to make sure if you feel uncomfortable at any point, you can quickly seek help. You can tag a friend or family member along and have them sit discreetly at a different table.
5. Use a Google Voice number
Get a Google Voice number, which allows you to check your messages, calls, and voicemails without giving away your real telephone number. If you need to, you can block an individual who seems off or comes on a little too forcefully and makes you uncomfortable. Reserve your real number for people you trust and are comfortable with.
6. Video chat before you meet
To minimize the risk of romance fraud, you can request the other person for a video chat via Google Hangouts, FaceTime, Facebook, or Skype. This reduces the chances of being cat fished by someone claiming to be someone they are not.
7. Do Some Research
Do some Google searches before you meet your date. Searching is not stalking, but rather, getting an idea of who your date is before you meet. Try and find photos, and see what extra information you can gather about them beyond their social media accounts.
Dating sites and apps have opened up the world, allowing people from all over the globe to date, albeit virtually. Dating virtually does not mean you should be careless while at it. You can meet a genuine person, or get unlucky and meet a scammer. Know the red flags to look out for, and stay away from people who display the red flag traits.