It’s no secret that online dating is becoming more and more popular all over the world. In fact it’s now a multibillion dollar industry that helps people find love over the net.
Lloyd Borrett, Security Evangelist for AVG (AU/NZ) Pty Ltd, says: “While falling madly in love isn’t something you can really plan for, online dating is very different: you need to pick the right dating service (and so many to choose from!), the right pictures (so many bad ones!), think of something funny to say and put your best foot forward in every way.
“But putting all this information about yourself out into the ether has risks of its own. Up to as many as 10% of all new profiles on free online dating services are thought to be scammers1. But why would scammers want to be on dating sites? Dating sites are goldmines for personal, professional and recreational information, not to mention the more sinister.
“So trust no one? Not quite. There are a few tips you can follow to make sure that you’re protecting yourself and your information while looking for love online this Valentine’s Day and beyond,” Borrett says.
Use a reputable, paid dating service – Famous brand names are an easy security win. They’ll have secure websites and the paid subscription should deter most troublemakers. The large user base will help you find your match too!
Don’t accept virtual gifts from strangers – The virtual gift industry is worth over US$1 billion in the United States alone2 and hopefully you’ll be receiving some e-cards and e-roses yourself. But as with real life, don’t accept gifts unless you know who they’re from and what they could be.
Think carefully about your profile – Make sure that you’re not revealing anything that you don’t want to in your profile. Details such as your salary, address and phone number are things that you don’t need to be sharing in public and could make you a target for scammers and identity thieves.
Use your profile inbox - Emails asking you to “reset your password” or “confirm your details” could easily be from scammers posing as official emails from your dating service. These days most services come with profile emails allowing you to contact other members and for the site itself to contact you. If you’re worried about the authenticity of an email, check your profile’s inbox before giving away any information.
Watch for email discrepancies – Does the language, style and tone sound the same each time? Is the email personal in content, or could it be someone copying and pasting the answers from a pre-written ‘script’.
Beware the sob story or emergency only you can help with – don’t send money or your credit card details to strangers.
Don’t transfer money for someone you’ve met on the Internet –they will probably ask you to pay a small amount of money to free up the funds in another country - this is a variation on the Nigerian scam. It could also be money laundering and is illegal.
If the photo looks too good to be true, it probably is – while plenty of attractive people are also looking for love, lots of scammers put up false photos to attract their victims. Does the photo match up with their description?
Borrett says, “Online dating is really no different from meeting someone at a party – use your commonsense and trust your instincts – and hopefully you’ll meet your perfect match.”
The Australian Government website, ScamWatch, has lots of useful advice as well as a link to report any scams. www.scamwatch.gov.au.
AVG (AU/NZ) has a comprehensive range of security tips on its web site at http://www.avg.com.au/resources/security-tips/. For video tips from AVG (AU/NZ), see http://www.youtube.com/user/avgaunz.