Online Dating

New research has revealed that online daters are being regularly spammed and scammed, highlighting the importance of maintaining privacy when using these services to safeguard your online reputation.

Symantec research

According to the BBC, security company Symantec surveyed 3,000 people across Europe on their use of dating sites and apps. The firm discovered that almost half of people who utilise dating sites and apps to find love have been spammed or scammed.

Commenting on the research, Nick Shaw, European head of Symantec’s Norton division said: “When people go online looking for love and affection they may not be as vigilant as they might be elsewhere… they look for the good rather than the bad.”

Experts suggested that lack of vigilance concerning online privacy can allow these people to be blackmailed, made the subject of revenge porn attacks and be tricked by assumed fake identities into parting with their cash.

Delving deeper

Breaking the results of the poll down, we see that 48% of British, German and French respondents have been sent spam and scam messages from other users on dating sites.

Shaw explained that many dating site scams are operated by gangs. They employ software ‘bots’ to find victims then pass them onto others, who get to know these people in order to steal their victims’ money.

Continuing, Shaw suggested that “there is a lot of money swilling around in the online dating world and criminals will always go where there is money.” Symantec found that 32% of respondents received requests for money on dating sites, while 28% had been ‘catfished’ – fooled via stolen videos and images into believing a scammer’s fake identity.

Revenge porn was also highlighted as a serious issue – 32% of online dating users questioned had been threatened with the release of compromising images they’d shared online, while 11% saw this content leaked online without their consent.

The University of Leicester’s Professor Monica Whitty explained that attackers first built trust with their victim. Then, they move communications offline to develop closer links and comprise their victim’s privacy to achieve their aims.

Continuing, Whitty added: “It can be very effective and can mean the little bits of evidence that suggest this is not real people will tend to be pushed aside.”

Safety tips

Symantec’s research has made it’s vital that you safeguard your privacy on dating sites and apps. Here are a few tips you can use to ensure you’re safe when looking for love online:

  • Use a reputable site: Do your research and Google the dating site. If it’s less than reputable, chances are that scammers use it to target victims, so find another platform instead.
  • Establish separate email: Use a separate email address to sign up to a dating site – that way scammers won’t be able to target your primary email with spam to negate your privacy online.
  • Beware new contacts: If someone you barely know sends you a link, don’t click it, as it could allow criminals to compromise your online privacy.
  • Avoid odd requests: Be very wary of requests for financial aid. More often than not, it’s a scam so just avoid it to keep yourself safe online.
  • Know who you’re talking to: A photograph proves nothing. Insist on talking face-to-face or via video chat to prove someone’s identity so you can be sure who you’re talking to.
  • Look for “canned” responses: If you’re talking to someone and their messages look “canned,” shut down all communication. Canned responses are key signs of online dating scams.

Advice on revenge porn

Sometimes, you can maintain your privacy when using online dating portals, yet still become a victim of a revenge porn attack or be targeted some other way. If this happens to you, use the following tips to resolve the issue and bolster your privacy online:

  • Get the content removed: The sooner you get the content taken down, the less damage it will do. Send a request to the website hosting the material asking them to take it down. It’s advisable to do this with a specialist online privacy solicitor, so they can cite the necessary law to ensure the website complies.
  • Contact Google: You also need to ensure links to the material are removed from Google searches for your name. According to Google’s removal policies if you ask for the material to be removed, your request may be obliged.
  • Take out an injunction: It may be advisable to take out an injunction against the person who posted content concerning you online without your consent to ensure they stop doing so. Hire a solicitor to take out the injunction, so you can ensure it’s drafted effectively.

Act safely online

Symantec’s research has made it clear that if you don’t safeguard your privacy when using online dating sites, you could expose yourself to scammers who could damage your reputation.

Therefore you should take care of your safety online to avoid falling victim to these criminal operations and if this fails, move to limit any damage as soon as possible to protect your reputation online.