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  • Inside Out Communications Consulting

Three easy ways to avoid data heartache with online dating

Data Protection Day day may be over, but it’s always important to keep your data safe. With Valentine’s Day coming up, what better time to talk about ways to keep your data safe on your favourite dating platforms?

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and you may be thinking about hopping onto a dating platform to celebrate the occasion.

But whilst you may not use your dating profile forever, your account and information will remain online for… well, forever, long after you have hidden your profile, deleted it or cancelled your membership.

So how can you keep this data safe?

1. Watch out for catfishing and romance fraud

Catfishing, the act of creating a fake profile to attract someone online, is common on dating platforms. If you’re an online dating native, it's something you will be familiar with.

While the term has gained popularity and lost some of its meaning over the last decade, another form of catfishing, romance fraud, has skyrocketed. Cases of romance fraud reported to Action Fraud throughout the pandemic were up by 40%, with losses of £73.9m reported from March 2020 to April 2021.

Romance fraud is a type of scam where criminals form romantic relationships with victims, in order to request money from them, often for alleged emergency healthcare, or to fund their travel costs to visit the victim. They may start off small, asking you to send an Amazon voucher to them for their (non-existent) child’s birthday so look out for early signs.

So what can you do to stay safe from criminals on dating sites?

Most of us are always keen to have a well-intentioned stalk of the people we’re chatting to. Whether it’s checking out their Instagram or Facebook profile, or checking for mutual friends. When you do this, check that their name and the information they’re telling you matches up with what you can see on other profiles. Also, make sure that the profile isn’t just days or weeks old, as this can be a giveaway it was set up for the wrong reasons.

This next bit is pretty smart: Did you know you can also download someone’s profile picture from the dating site, or any other social media pages, and use the reverse image search function on Google to see who else is using the image online? This is often a huge giveaway when it comes to fake profiles, as scammers use random images they find on the internet.

Lastly, make sure to spread awareness about catfishing and romance fraud to your friends and relatives, especially those who may be older and more likely to be targeted. Statistics show that women around 50 are the main target of these scams, making up 63% of the victims. Why not start today by sharing this blog with them?

In summary: question what you see and what you’re told, look out for signs of fraudsters, and always do your own research.

2. Don’t overshare

Of course you want to sound interesting, unique, even irresistible! But online dating platforms ask for a lot of your information to help you find your dream match. From the name of your first pet, or your best travel story, to the name of your favourite film. It’s just for a bit of fun right? A conversation starter for someone who comes across your profile, or for someone to get a sense of your personality.

Unfortunately, data breaches are plentiful in the world of online dating platforms. All of the information that you share on your public profile, or behind a password in your account area, from where you went to university to your favourite bar in the area you live in, can end up in the wrong hands.

In January 2021 the data of 2.28 million users of the dating site MeetMindful was breached and leaked as a free download on a hacking forum. The information in the file included names, IP addresses and account passwords.

In 2020 the dating platform giant Bumble was found to have a vulnerability which exposed the data of nearly 100 million users - including their Facebook likes, locations, and photos.

Serious food for thought, right?

Additionally, giving away information like the names of your pets, or the date you went on that fabulous holiday, can narrow down the passwords hackers will try with a simple brute-force attack. And what about those security questions that give your internet accounts an additional layer of security? Could they be at risk?

And we haven’t even mentioned questionable password hygiene. Statistics show that almost 30% of us rarely, or never, change our passwords, while 53% of people reuse passwords across different accounts. What’s more, hundreds of millions of us use a password from the list of top 200 most common passwords.

In summary: Don't overshare (and what you do share, keep behind a strong password).

3. Check privacy settings

When signing up for an account with a dating platform, you will have to agree to the privacy policy.

Before signing up, check if the organisation is sharing your data with third parties, for example, for marketing purposes. With the amount of data you tend to give away about yourself on dating apps, this information creates quite the target persona for companies trying to sell you things.

The benefits of using the dating platform may outweigh the disadvantages of being emailed ‘offers for over 40s’, but it’s good to be in the know and make that decision for yourself.

Additionally, check the location tracker settings on your accounts. Some dating apps, like Tinder, track your location to decide who to show your profile to, based on the distance settings of other users. Think about if you want this data to be out there, and choose which dating platforms you use based on your preference if necessary.

In summary: stay informed and do what feels comfortable for you.

Want to know more about keeping your data safe online? Here at Inside Out we run cyber safety awareness raising programmes for organisations.

Curious about what we could do for your organisation? Send us an email or visit our website


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