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The Short Version: The Center for Cyber Safety and Education is a nonprofit that provides informational resources for people who use the internet to date, shop, game, and socialize. The online world has a lot to offer today’s singles and couples, but it’s not all smooth sailing and easy swiping. Scammers, hackers, catfishers, and other unsavory characters can pose a threat to unsuspecting users, and that’s where the Center for Cyber Safety and Education comes in. The Center’s cybersecurity experts help raise awareness about the potential cyber threats and urge people to protect their information and money as they mingle online.
As online dating has become more popular, romance scams have become one of the biggest threats to online safety and security. In 2019, Americans reported losing over $201 million to romance scams. To put that in perspective, that’s more than the GDPs of Wyoming, New Hampshire, and Alaska — combined.
The Federal Trade Commission has seen a marked increase in the number of reports about romance scams in recent years. In the past two years alone, people reported losing more money to romance scams than to any other fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission. Since 2015, reports have more than doubled and reported losses have quadrupled.
Online dating is a double-edged sword. It can give singles instant access to local dates and potential partners, but it can also open the door to criminals who want to take advantage of a single person’s emotional vulnerability.
Fortunately, the Center for Cyber Safety and Education can arm people against online scammers by providing safety tips and resources focused on cyber safety.
The Center’s mission is to educate and empower digital citizens so they know how to browse, chat, mingle, and connect without putting themselves at risk. The team has pioneered school programs and scholarships to raise awareness about cyber safety issues, thus making the online world safer for everyone.
An international nonprofit organization called (ISC)² created the Center to make internet safety resources available to the public. Cybersecurity professionals from around the globe have pooled their knowledge and insights to raise awareness about privacy issues, cybercriminals, and other potential threats online.
As online daters navigate the brave new world of swiping, the Center will be by their side to offer guidance and warnings that could help them spot the predators, scammers, and catfishers in their inboxes.
“The Center’s goal is to keep growing and increase the number of people who find our resource and share with the community,” said Patrick Craven, a spokesperson for the team. “The more people have access to learn about internet safety through our resources, the safer we will all be.”
The Center is the only nonprofit that has the exclusive support of (ISC)2 members, the top cybersecurity organization in the world. This allows the Center to create accurate and updated content for a diverse audience.
Although the Center is a small nonprofit, it reaches classrooms, senior centers, PTA meetings, and communities around the world. Thousands of volunteers have joined forces with the five paid staff members to spread the word about cyber safety.
Cybersecurity and IT professionals have used the Center’s resources to teach people about data breaches, online scams, cyberbullying, and other pitfalls of digital life. The Center’s volunteer presentations have been instrumental in disseminating vital information about cyber safety with the general public.
“The Center attracts senior citizens, parents, and teachers looking for tools to learn or teach their loved ones about internet safety,” Patrick said.
Some forward-thinking companies have also partnered with the Center to sponsor scholarships for students interested in studying cyber safety, information security, and other related fields. These scholarships recognize that cybersecurity experts will be in high demand in the coming decades, and it’s important to have the best and brightest on the front lines of the digital world. In 2019, the Center gave out $180,000 in college scholarships and financial aid.
The Center’s free resources are downloadable in 24 languages. You can find PowerPoint presentations as well as reports, infographics, and research available in PDF format. The Center touches on every topic having to do with cyber safety, so you can find information about online banking, password protection, and online dating.
Anyone can download these resources and become cyber safety ambassadors in their communities. People can also support the Center by making a donation. As a nonprofit, the Center relies on donations and fundraisers to fuel its efforts to make the online world a safer place.
Online dating has been responsible for countless genuine relationships and marriages, but it can prove hazardous to singles who don’t know how to weed out the liars and fakes.
Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to online scams because they are inexperienced on websites and apps, and they may miss the red flags of a scam.
The Center offers senior safety tips to help people feel more comfortable and secure on dating sites. Meeting strangers on the web can seem intimidating at first, but singles can take precautions to ensure they don’t put their data, their money, or their personal safety at risk.
The Center encourages online daters to vet their potential dates before things get too serious. Singles should never send gifts or money to someone they haven’t met in person, and they shouldn’t meet in person without first conducting a background check and talking for long enough to feel sure that person is who he or she says.
Your background search doesn’t have to be all that in-depth. It could be as simple as a Google search of the person’s name or an image search of the profile picture. You can also look for social media profiles that verify your love interest’s identity. You’d be surprised what you can find out about a person with just a little information at your disposal.
Not all dating sites verify profiles or screen members, so singles should treat each incoming message with a healthy amount of suspicion and skepticism.
“Take it slowly. Ask questions and look for inconsistent answers,” Patrick advises. “If you suspect a romance scam, cut off contact right away.”
If you have already given an online scammer money, report the scam to your bank and see if you can cancel the charges or wire transfer. You should also report that member to the dating site or app where you met, and file a complaint with the FTC.
Online safety impacts everyone with an internet connection. It’s a widespread issue that affects a user’s internet activity beyond the online dating scene. Every click and chat can have a repercussion in the real world if users aren’t careful.
The Center’s experts recommend using malware protection software to keep viruses from poaching your data, crippling your connection, and infiltrating your devices. Once the software is installed, you can set up automatic updates so it never gets out of date.
A strong password is another important line of defense for digital citizens. You may find it easier to remember passwords that include a loved one’s name or your birthday, but that will make your accounts easier to hack. The most secure passwords are at least eight characters long and do not use context-specific words. Try to think up a phrase instead of a word to make it extra difficult to crack.
“Make sure you use different passwords for each online account you have,” Patrick said. “If there is a chance to set up a two-factor authentication, do it!”
Email is a common access point for scammers seeking to take advantage of someone, so be wary about anything in your inbox and verify the sender before you open the email. Sometimes a so-called urgent email is actually a phishing scam designed to get people to click on something, sign up for something, and compromise their security. Look out for too-good-to-be true emails about winning money or prizes as well as emails about an emergency or crisis.
If you’re ever in doubt, don’t open the email and reach out to the sender by phone to verify that it’s legit. Definitely never click on anything in a suspect email. That could help hackers gain access to your personal data.
As a comprehensive security expert, the Center offers guidance on a variety of safety topics, and it can offer a starter kit for anyone entering online dating for the first time.
The Center is currently developing a program geared toward high schoolers and the unique threats (cyberbullying, online predators, etc.) they face on their smartphones and computers. Once this program is available to the public, the Center will have informational resources available for people of all ages.
“Educating children, parents, and senior citizens is a vital part of safety for our community using the internet,” said Toni Edkins, a volunteer with the Center. “The ever-evolving threat is a big concern, and it is my passion to ensure that we, as a community of security professionals, continue to help others stay safe and secure online. The Center has pioneered this cause, and I am proud to be a part of it.”
The Center for Cyber Safety and Education has been a bastion of expert information and support for anyone with cyber safety concerns.
Online daters and other digital citizens can look to the Center for safety tips that’ll help them avoid common pitfalls, dangers, and scams on the web. This nonprofit has educated thousands of students, parents, and seniors, and it has empowered volunteers to become advocates for a safer online world.
As Patrick said, “Whether that’s creating stronger passwords or being able to detect a scam, knowing that we are making the cyber world a safer place for everyone one person at the time is the best feeling.”