Protect yourself while online dating

How to improve your security during online dating

In recent years, many people have turned to online dating apps, which make it easier to meet people from all over the world. Much as this is an advantage, online dating has attracted scammers, whose main aim is to lure and steal from their online lovers. With the Covid-19 quarantine, scammers have become even easier to lie to their victims, using the global lockdowns and quarantines as an excuse. Here are some of the risks you may face while dating online.
● Romance Fraud
Romance frauds are a form of cat fishing, where the scammer creates a bogus online identity. This person might use stock photos and fake names or steal someone’s identity. They usually claim to be stuck in jobs that keep them outside the country, such as working in the army, oil rigs, or NGOs. They target people who seem vulnerable, especially widows, widowers, or divorcees, and spend months grooming the victim and winning trust, then ask for money, which is given because of the already built trust.
● Webcam blackmail
These scams, also known as sextortion, involve criminals befriending someone online and convincing them to perform sexual acts in front of a webcam. These acts are recorded, and the victim later blackmailed into giving the scammers money to prevent exposure.
● Phishing scams
These scams attempt to get you to divulge your personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. The scammer may get you to trust them, and then attempt to phish you.
How to protect yourself
1. Do not chat on the phone
Most scammers like to rush their victims to move off the dating app platform, which might flag the conversations. Do not let the person rush you to moving from the app to chatting on the phone via Whatsapp or SMS.
2. Meet in public places
If the new dating app partner wants to meet, make sure you meet in a public place, and ensure someone knows where you will be at all times.
3. Use a VPN
Stay anonymous with a VPN (Virtual Private Network), which hides your IP address and your real location. This ensures the person you are communicating with does not know your exact location from your IP address, no matter what tools he uses on his end.
4. Use Google Voice number
This service is free and allows you to create an extra number that makes cheap international calls, free domestic calls, and has spam call filters. This way, the scammer cannot tell your real number.
Online dating is an attractive and easy way to meet new people, but needs to be used with caution. Ensure you take measures when you meet a new person and first confirm they are who they say they are. Never flirt on a webcam and never send money to anyone or on behalf of anyone. Meet the person in a public place and watch out for red flags mentioned above.