Covid-19 is an infectious disease caused by the newly discovered coronavirus. The WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic back in March.
Many countries responded by instituting full or partial lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus and keep heath systems from becoming overwhelmed. Some just imposed restrictions on population movement. Coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions have affected social life in so many ways, leaving some of us with feelings of intense loneliness and isolation.
In the midst of a frightening global pandemic, some have found a rare bright spot in online dating. The pandemic has made it difficult to meet in person, you know, with lockdowns and all. A lot of single people have turned to online dating and virtual meetups as an alternative. While online dating presents an ideal way to find love during a pandemic, there are a few safety concerns. And the novel coronavirus provides the perfect cover for online dating crooks.
Risks of Online Dating
Just like every other aspect of the world wide web, online dating apps and websites have a dark side. There are numerous reports highlighting a rise in the number of incidents involving romance fraud, blackmail, sextortion, etc. There are also potential data security risks and privacy violations to think about when venturing into the world of online dating. Here are some of the most common risks of online dating.
Romance fraud is one of the most common forms of cybercrime in the online dating scene. Online dating scammers are eager to exploit your quest for love to steal money from you. These individuals play on emotional triggers to get their victims to provide money and gifts. Purporting to be prospective companions, romance scammers will often use dating apps, websites, and social media to take advantage of people looking for romantic partners.
Sextortion has become very common in online dating. Usually, you meet someone through an online dating app such as Tinder or Grindr and exchange some naughty conversations or intimate photos/videos. Things take a turn for the worse when the person you thought was interested in the same thing threatens to share these images or videos with your family, friends, and colleagues unless you give them money.
Online dating apps such as Tinder, Plenty of Fish, eHarmony, Match, and Grindr are experiencing a surge in users during the pandemic. The expanding user base brings additional risk to user data. Over the years, we have seen numerous cases of data breaches and hacking targeting online dating services where user information such as emails, addresses, names, and payment information has been made public.
How to Ensure Safety While Online Dating
According to the Federal Trade Commission, tens of thousands of Americans fall victim to online dating scams every year. Attacks related to online dating can range from romance fraud to blackmail attempts, and no one is safe. Every person using online dating apps and websites such as Match, eHarmony, Tinder, etc. should bear in mind that anyone can fall victim and take the necessary precautions. Here are some recommendations to keep in mind.
Communicate Via the App
Chatting via the dating app is the safer option compared to more personal communication channels such as instant messaging or email. Just to be safe, don’t be in a hurry to move the conversation to your email inbox. Be careful when dealing with someone who seems to be too eager to move the conversation off the platform as they could be an online dating scammer.
Setup Google Voice Number
At some point, if things are going well with your match, you’ll want to move the conversation from the dating app. If you want to have phone conversations, it’s safer not to use your personal number and instead set up a Google Voice Number. This is a telephone service that gives you a phone number for calling, text messaging, call forwarding, and voicemail services as long as you have a Google Account.
Don’t Send Money
Romance fraud has become prevalent in dating apps. It’s easy to tell when your online dating match is a scammer. After weeks or months of chatting up your online dating match, establishing some confidence, they will tell you a very elaborate story that will culminate with a request for you to wire them money. Don’t send money to people you meet on online dating platforms before you get to know them personally.
Don’t Put Too Much Personal Information Out There
Limit the amount of information you put out there to reduce the risk of an attack. Sharing personal information including full names, home addresses, work details, etc. puts you at risk of a cyberattack in the event of a data breach. Cybercriminals lurking on online dating platforms can also use this information to steal your identity or launch a cyberattack, so, exercise caution when putting your information out there.
No Sensitive Images or Videos Either
People you meet online are not always who they say they are so don’t be too trusting. Don’t overshare on online dating apps and sites. Sharing sensitive images and videos is a huge security risk as you end up setting yourself up for blackmail. Don’t let your ‘partner’ lure you into compromising situations such as taking off your clothes on a webcam. Those images or videos may be used to blackmail you.
Use a VPN
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to reduce your digital footprint when dating online. A VPN masks your IP address and encrypts your internet traffic when browsing online dating apps and websites. Using a VPN is a great way to protect your data on online dating apps and websites as it keeps your personal information hidden from hackers, scammers, and other online threat actors.
Single people are facing special challenges during the covid-19 pandemic. Coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions have made it extremely difficult for singles to mingle, driving people into online dating apps. And while they can be fun and convenient especially during a pandemic, online dating poses numerous risks for unassuming singletons. Make sure that you are taking precautions for your safety when using online dating apps and websites.
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