With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many singletons turn to dating apps to find a date for February 14th. While usage patterns vary a lot, some dating apps have been reporting an increase in downloads around Valentine’s Day. In 2020, Tinder had a 14% increase in downloads in the UK on the day after — not a euphemism in this case, but another day of celebration: February 15th, Single’s Awareness Day.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, dating habits have also changed. Online dating used to mean finding someone online to date in real life, but now more and more dates are actually taking place online, through messages or video conference apps. Catfishing has become a serious threat for people chatting exclusively online, and, overall, dating online adds even more complications to our dating life, most notably cybersecurity threats. We’ve compiled a list of tips for safe online dating to help you use dating apps securely and privately, and avoid being catfished. But first…
What is catfishing?
Catfishing is the practice of creating a fake online identity and using it to trick and exploit other people. Catfish scammers go to great lengths to persuade their targeted victim that they are the people they claim to be. It has been a common practice in online dating. People catfishing others have often used photos and stories of real people to fabricate their online identity.
Catfishing scams are often conducted for financial gain. Catfishes target people looking for potential partners on dating apps or websites and pretend to be their perfect match. As soon as they gain trust, they start asking for money, gifts, or even personal details that might help them scam their victims. But there are many catfishes in the sea. Some look for revenge and try to trick previous partners, others are looking to harass acquaintances, and some are just bored and lonely.
A study on the personality of catfish scammers conducted by The Conversation found that 41% of respondents were motivated by loneliness, and more than two-thirds mentioned a desire to escape their insecurities. Catfishing is a complex psychological issue, and it can cause significant mental health problems for those who fall prey to it. To help you stay clear of catfish and navigate the tumultuous waters of online dating with more confidence, we’ve gathered the top five tips for safe online dating.
5 tips for safe online dating
1. Choose a dating app with identity verification features.
Finding the right dating app or website can be a daunting task. Some provide endless questionnaires for you to fill out, others provide too little information in their users’ dating profiles, focusing instead on tons of carefully curated photos. No matter what kind of dating app you prefer, make sure to choose one that requires users to verify their identity.
The most popular dating apps require users to verify their identity with their phone number, social media profile, or using facial recognition and photo verification features. Before signing up, ensure the app or website you plan on using requires all its users to verify their identity.
2. Secure your account and dating profile.
Once you’ve found your digital sidekick, secure your account with a strong, unique password and set up two-factor authentication. Most reputable dating apps require two-factor authentication. Having any online account hacked is bad but having your dating profile hacked can turn into a nightmare. You don’t want the messages you send to your crush to fall into the wrong hands. Plus, what if someone steals your irresistible pick-up line?
Joking aside, there is a lot of sensitive information on your dating profile. Hackers often target dating apps and websites precisely because of the nature of the information stored in their databases. In January 2021, the personal information of 2.28 million users of MeetMindful was leaked by a hacker, including names, emails, home addresses and IP addresses, account passwords, and Facebook user IDs.
For an additional layer of security, you can use tools to monitor if your email address is leaked in a data breach. Avira’s identity safeguard feature integrated into our mobile security apps for iOS and Android notifies you when breaches occur, allowing you to take immediate action and secure your account.
3. Inspect dating profiles.
Even with verified user profiles, scammers can still find ways to create fake profiles. When you are interested in a person’s profile, take a close look at the information and photos provided. Watch out for photos that seem heavily edited. If you doubt a photo’s authenticity, do a reverse image search – it will help you catch catfish scammers that use other people’s identity as their own. If you still have doubts about the profile of your match, you can also check their social media profile and Google their name or username (if they don’t provide their real name).
4. Take your time and don’t share sensitive content.
It’s easy to get excited when you meet someone who seems to be your perfect match. No matter how enthusiastic you are about getting to know each other better, wait a while before sharing more personal information than necessary.
Catfishing scammers know how to exploit emotions and they try to get as much information as they can, from your home address to your credit card details. Some might even ask for intimate photos which they could use later to blackmail you.
5. Put security first.
When dating online, your emotions might make you less alert to threats and scams. Love is a lot like malware: it rapidly takes over your entire system, causing glitches in your daily routine, and slowing you down. You’re in a meeting at work and you drift away daydreaming about your crush. While love’s oxytocin-induced euphoria is not actually dangerous, malware is.
Phishing is one of the biggest online threats. It’s a very effective way to spread malware, such as keyloggers that track keystrokes to expose your login credentials, banking Trojans or ransomware. To keep your devices and data safe, use antivirus software.
Avira provides free antivirus for all platforms, and if you are looking for additional features, like unlimited mobile VPN, you can opt for Avira Prime. Avira Prime is our all-in-one bundle for security, privacy, and performance, and it can be used on multiple devices, across all platforms. One license covers up to 25 devices, so you can also share it with your loved ones – and it covers you even if you’re in a polyamorous relationship. 😉