Online Dating Risks: Your Ultimate Safety Guide to Dating Online

Maria Cadelina @TechWarn.com writes a guest post for us this week on Online Dating Risks. She provides some safety tips to help you navigate dating online without compromising your safety. Happy online dating!

Covid-19 Shifts Our Culture

Covid-19 has prompted an abrupt shift to remote culture, with people having to adapt to a life indoors in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. Yet, despite all the restrictions and stay-at-home orders, the novel coronavirus hasn’t stopped people from dating and finding love. When it comes to dating routines, the new normal is significantly different from the pre-pandemic era. Attitudes towards various aspects of dating are also changing, and so is the approach to search for romance.

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 a pandemic in March, online dating has become very popular. Romance seekers all over the world are flocking online dating platforms in large numbers. On March 29, popular online dating app Tinder saw 3 billion swipes, the highest ever recorded by the service in a single day. Data shows a significant increase in online dating since Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic.

Risks of Online Dating

Online dating is convenient, allows you to meet people outside your social circles, and makes meeting people with similar interests, backgrounds, and core values quicker. Overall, online dating offers certain perks that are harder to come by when meeting people traditionally. With social gatherings banned due to coronavirus fears, there’s no better way to search for love. However, online dating is not as safe as many of us would like to think.

Privacy can be a major problem when dating online. Often, users have to reveal certain information about themselves, including names, location, job title, etc. on dating apps. Putting this information out, there is exposing users to a wide range of cyber risks. Issues such as blackmail and romance fraud are also common in the online dating world. Here are some of the ways through which online dating can be problematic.

Privacy and Data Security Issues

Over the years, we have seen multiple data security incidents where user information such as emails, addresses, names, and payment information has been made public. The most prominent online dating service hacking was the Ashley Madison hack back in 2015. Loads of personal information such as credit card details, home addresses, and real names, was leaked online. Other dating services such as Jack’d and OkCupid has experienced data breaches even more recently.

Webcam Blackmail/Sextortion

Data theft and romance scams aren’t the only problems to worry about when dating online. Another common form of cybercrime in the online dating scene is webcam blackmail. After interacting with someone for some time, some users may feel comfortable taking off their clothes or getting intimate with their online lovers on webcam. The person or people on the other end may be recording you and threaten to share the videos with friends and family unless you pay them.

How to Stay Safe While Dating Online

As you can see, online dating can be dangerous if you are not careful. Fortunately, you can still date online safely by taking the correct safety precautions. Here are some useful tips on how to protect yourself when online dating.

Use a VPN

First and foremost, you need to make sure that you reduce your digital footprint on online dating platforms using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN masks your IP address and scrambles your internet traffic when browsing online dating platforms. Using a VPN protects your data on online dating platforms by keeping your personal information hidden from cybercriminals.

Don’t Share Intimate Photos of Yourself

Sharing intimate photos or videos of yourself on online dating apps and sites is a huge security risk as it exposes you to threats such as webcam blackmail. Additionally, don’t perform intimate acts or take off your clothes on a webcam. You don’t know who sees the images and what they’ll be used for. You could be dealing with cybercriminals.

Keep the Chatting on the App

To be safe, keep communication with your matches on the dating app while online dating. You can always take communication out of the dating app after feeling comfortable talking to this person via more personal communication channels such as email. However, it would be best not to let your guard down even though you feel familiar with the person.

Covid-19 quarantine and social distancing restrictions have made dating very difficult, but not impossible. Those looking for love can still find it in the murky world of online dating. But putting yourself out there can be risky. Some of the people you meet online aren’t who they say they are. It would be best if you were careful when talking to online strangers you meet via dating apps to avoid falling victim to romance fraud, webcam blackmail, and data theft.