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Online dating became the new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic. With strict stay-at-home orders, many singles grappled with feelings of loneliness, boredom, and a lack of attention, and they turned to dating apps and desktop sites to connect with others.
According to the app’s 2020 year-end report, Tinder broke its record for active swiping on March 29, 2020 with more than 3 billion swipes. Its competitors, OkCupid and Bumble, also saw a significant increase in user activity between March and May.
The pandemic has made online dating more popular than ever before. But that change comes with its drawbacks, particularly when you consider the safety aspects of dating apps and sites. We did some research to better understand just how safe online dating really is.
According to data collected by Social Catfish, an online investigative service, California remained in the number one spot for lost consumer revenue with 2,198 people losing $158 million to romance scams in 2022. Texas came in second place with online daters losing $60.3 million, and Florida dropped to third place losing $53.4 million. New York ranked as the fourth-worst state in the U.S. for online dating fraud. Approximately 823 New Yorkers fell victim to the deceptive charms of romance scammers in 2022, resulting in a loss of $33.5 million.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a romance scam is when someone impersonates a potential romantic partner on a dating site, app, or social media platform to trick their victim out of money. These scammers create elaborate and convincing storylines to build trust and emotional attachment with the victim before they ask them for money.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the most common lie told by romance scammers is that a friend or family member is either ill or in jail and they need money to help them. The second-most-common ruse is when scammers tell an online dater they have a business opportunity or investment advice to share.
“Scams, sadly, have become a part of the online dating landscape, as they have in many other aspects of digital life,” said divorce lawyer and family law and relationship expert Laura Wasser. “And just as you’d be skeptical of an email from a long-lost relative who suddenly needs your bank details, you should be wary of someone who seems too good to be true online.”
If a new match seems to catch feelings for you a little too quickly, you may want to press on the brakes and determine if that person is being legit — or if they want something more than your love. Always be questioning your online matches and thinking about their intentions before you give them your trust — let alone your bank account numbers!
Sextortion schemes aren’t new, but with advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), they’re becoming more complex and harder to detect.
In a recent public service announcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned that cybercriminals use AI to create deepfakes (deceptively realistic manipulated images or videos) to impersonate victims in sextortion scams.
Sextortion scams typically involve criminals coercing victims into sharing explicit sexual content, followed by threats to expose the material to their social circles, including friends, family, or colleagues, unless a ransom is paid. These criminals can take their scams to a new level with AI-generated images and videos.
Sextortion is a serious crime and can have devastating consequences on the victim’s personal and professional life. Teenagers have died by suicide after being targeted in a sextortion scam, and these scam artists often target young men because the shame for them is acute.
Scams aren’t the only concern when it comes to online dating. In 2022, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) uncovered unsettling evidence of a significant increase in online dating-related sexual assaults since 2016. These findings expose the sobering reality faced by online daters, highlighting the need for heightened awareness and preventive measures.
In a separate survey conducted by the BBC, 37% of dating app users reported encountering inappropriate behavior, while 33% reported experiencing harassment or abuse firsthand. These statistics aren’t just in the UK, either. According to another study published by the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, of 2,000 sexual assault victims between 2017 and 2020, 14% of the assaults happened after meeting someone via a dating app.
Dating apps can struggle to stop sexual offenders from creating a new account and causing trouble, even after they’ve been reported and booted for breaking the community guidelines.
“Everything in life carries a certain level of risk, but online dating is mostly safe,” said online dating expert Eric Resnick, who met his wife of 11 years online.
A study by the Pew Research Center found that younger women, specifically those between 18 and 34, are at a greater risk of experiencing online harassment and unwanted sexual advances, with 19% reporting threatening or violent behavior.
In response to the solicitation and unwanted behavior, some dating apps have implemented safety features, including verification processes, background checks, and the ability to report or block users. Other dating apps, like Bumble, put women in control of the conversation and interactions, while others prioritize user anonymity.
Despite the potential risks associated with online dating, 53% of Americans still agree that online dating is relatively safe. In fact, in some ways it’s safer than the traditional way of dating by chatting up strangers at a bar or in another public place. When you’re online, you have a screen between yourself and the other person, so you are physically safe from harm while getting to know each other.
Another point in online dating’s favor is the fact that dating profiles and social media profiles offer a lot of information about a new person. You can learn a lot about that potential match before you even send a message, and it’s possible to go further via Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to find their digital footprint and verify that they are who they say they are.
That said, there are a few safety precautions you can take to protect yourself, including:
The key takeaway here is that when using a dating app, or any other online platform, the best thing you can do is exercise caution, listen to your gut, and take action if something feels off.
While it’s important to be aware of the potential risks involved in online dating, you shouldn’t let fear hold you back from finding love and sparking new connections.
Online dating isn’t just for romantic relationships, either. It can also be a great way to make new friends and expand your social circle. Plus, it’s cheaper than footing a bar tab or going out every other night to meet new people.
“I’m a big believer in online dating; I met my husband on Hinge, and most of my clients meet their matches online, too,” said dating expert and author of “The Art of Feminine Seduction,” Alana Mackenzie Page. “Online dating opens up the potential match pool quickly. You don’t have to wait to be in the same room as someone who’s a good fit for you; you can actively seek them out online.”