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|Adam West • 11/28/16|
The Short Version: In today’s busy world, online dating has become increasingly popular, helping singles quickly and efficiently find their perfect match. But with those pros can also come some cons such as catfishing or fraud. Get Safe Online, a public and private sector initiative that started in the U.K., is on a mission to protect all Internet users and their personal information — providing comprehensive guides, blog posts, and news articles on numerous subjects related to web safety. Their Safe Online Dating guide is especially geared toward teaching online daters how to avoid scams and other dangerous situations when meeting new people through dating websites.
We live in a time when information on just about anything and anyone is universally accessible, all thanks to the Internet. While this is often a liberating and exciting concept, it comes with its fair share of risks, including phishing scams, stalking, harassment, and webcam blackmail, just to name a few. Online dating services, in particular, can be commonly trolled by scammers involved in the aforementioned dubious activities.
Online dating may have some risks, but that shouldn’t discourage people from electronically looking for love. Get Safe Online is a fantastic resource that can show you how to make your online dating experience enjoyable and risk-free.
Started as a government initiative in the United Kingdom, Get Safe Online is a leading source of unbiased and easy-to-understand information on all types of online safety topics, from helping businesses protect important data to safeguarding children from cyberbullying.
For singles, the site offers a free guide to online dating safety as well as blog posts and news articles that highlight the potential dangers of using these types of websites and how to prevent them from happening.
“[Online] is a great place to be, a great place to find love. But we need to make sure we do it securely,” said Get Safe Online CEO Tony Neate. “I’m very pro the Internet, and I am passionate about people being secure on there.”
One of the most vicious and lucrative scams is a romance extortion scheme, according to Molly O’Hearn, Vice President of Operations for iovation, an Oregon-based fraud protection program. Scammers will seduce their victims online, solicit compromising media (photographs or videos) and then demand payment to keep that media private. “Unfortunately, we’re living in a pretty lax world,” O’Hearn said. “A world of selfies.”
In response to other online dating scams, Tony said, “even if you feel you have become closer to someone via email or phone, this person is still largely a stranger to you, so if you feel ready to meet them in person, whether it is your first or fifth date, keep on high alert and report anything suspicious. With the right precautions in place, we can nip romance fraud in the bud.”
To combat forms of deception like these, Get Safe Online provides their users with a Safe Online Dating guide that breaks down the risks and gives detailed advice on how to remain anonymous, set up security and passwords, handle first dates, avoid scams, and report crimes.
These guides are certainly not intended to scare online daters but rather to help raise awareness about the potential dangers so folks can continue to have an enjoyable online dating experience while avoiding worst-case scenarios. The broad majority of people on dating websites are honest and sincere, but it’s still important for users to take precautions.
Get Safe Online regularly posts relevant news articles and blog entries that can help users stay up to date about the latest goings-on in online dating. These are particularly important because new risks can always crop up.
One article, entitled “Online Dating Fraud Up by 33% Last Year,” explains how the U.K. public lost £34 million in 2014 to romance fraudsters. This works out to around $42 million U.S. dollars, and it’s a trend that’s been on the rise globally. About 85% of these dating scams began online, stemming from online dating platforms and forums. The article also discusses how scammers prey on victims by tugging on their heartstrings around Valentine’s Day, specifically. This is a time of year to be extra cautious of when online dating.
In another post, the National Crime Agency issued a warning about assaults stemming from online encounters and linked readers to even more resources that offer tips for staying safe when dating online and also preventing fraud.
While singles should always remain vigilant and exercise common sense, online dating is still a positive experience, and the good folks at Get Safe Online have been fighting to keep it that way.
Much of the success of Get Safe Online has stemmed from the funding and support they’ve received from the British government as well as many private-sector companies that recognize the need for digital security. Many of these partners and supporters provide financial backing as well as the technical expertise, intelligence, and advice that go into safeguarding the public.
Among the high-profile partners of the initiative are Barclays, CERT-UK, City of London Police, Clydesdale Bank & Yorkshire Bank, Creative Virtual, Credit Suisse, Gumtree, HSBC, and PayPal.
The prominence of these groups help raise awareness for the initiative, and it’s thanks to them the website is able to exist and thrive as a resource.
Online dating is a powerful tool that gives us a platform to clearly identify our romantic objectives and that can save us from headaches, disappointment, and even unnecessary heartache. Nevertheless, it’s important to be mindful of the possible risks.
And that’s precisely why Get Safe Online can be so instrumental in this quest. The initiative allows us to approach online dating safely by providing resources that show us how to avoid dodgy dating situations, scams, and sexual assaults. Taking advantage of these resources and exercising caution can lead to some truly wonderful relationships that begin on the Internet.