Online Dating? Don’t Give It All Away Before The First Date, Security Experts Warn

Fans of online dating have been warned not to get too excited with their new matches, following the news that too much sharing could leave them at risk of online fraud.

A survey of online dating users found that one in 10 romance seekers who’ve ‘met’ someone through such a service gave out personal details, such as their phone number and address, immediately after making initial introductions – leaving them vulnerable to financial heartbreak through romance cons.

The findings, from comparison site broadbandchoices, shows the dangers of revealing confidential details online – particularly to strangers.

Open up

Contact details such as phone numbers and addresses were the most common to be revealed, with many users saying that they wanted to talk to potential partners personally, rather than going through the formality of a dating site.

Surveying 2,000 users, the report found that men were far more cavalier than women, with 15 percent prepared to ‘take things offline’ quickly compared to just 5 percent of women.

The over-55 age group were the biggest risk-takers as 1 in 4 said they would share their personal contact information without delay.

“Modern technology has moved matchmaking online, with the use of dating apps and websites on the increase in the UK, but unfortunately this comes with risks attached, said broadbandchoices’ telecoms expert Dominic Baliszewski.

“People who use dating sites often have their guard down as they seek to make a connection with someone, but this open-mindedness can also leave people vulnerable to fraudsters if they’re not careful. Online dating fraud can cost victims thousands of pounds, and this will only increase as more and more people turn to dating websites and apps to meet someone.”

Dangerous love

The use of dating websites to commit online fraud has been slowly rising in recent years as the medium explodes in popularity, particularly around Valentine’s Day.

A recent IBM study discovered a number of vulnerabilities in more than 60 percent of popular Android dating apps, ranging from apps that downloaded malware, GPS information being used to track users’ movements, and credit card details being stolen from apps.

Many well-known dating apps, including the likes of Tinder and Grindr, can also be hacked
to reveal users’ exact location, security experts warned last month. A flaw in the apps leaves users vulnerable to stalking and persecution, according to researchers Patrick Wardle and Colby Moore from cybersecurity firm Synack, who detailed the security weakness at hacker conference ShmooCon 2015 this week in Washington, DC.

“Romance is an emotional thing and we often hear from people who have let their heart rule their head when dating online, commented Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online, the government-run service set up to promote online security.

“Of course you want to try and make the first few conversations online a personal as possible, after all, it’s human nature, but think about how you would behave if someone chatted you up at a bar or on your commute home from work. Would you hand over your phone number straight away? You certainly wouldn’t give them your home address.”

“We’re not saying people shouldn’t use dating sites at all; we lead very busy lives and they’re a really great way to meet new people, we’re just urging people to be a little cautious. If someone you’ve never met declares their undying love for you after two online conversations, then this should raise suspicions. Likewise, if someone asks you for money, no matter how small the amount or how sad their story is, don’t do it – it’s very likely to be a scam.”

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Steve McCaskill

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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