Last February wasn’t very romantic for users of some online dating sites. Popular dating app Coffee Meets Bagel disclosed that it had been breached — making the announcement on Valentine’s Day, no less.
Online dating is big business. An estimated 35 million Americans have given it a go, and 59% believe it’s a good way to meet people. Unfortunately, it’s also a good way to get conned. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission warns that losses from online romance scams — where victims wire cash or send prepaid debit cards to phony love interests — have quadrupled since 2013, making them the costliest form of online fraud. In one incident, a woman lost $200,000 to a fake online “boyfriend”; the profile was actually maintained by an international cybercrime ring.
Even if you don’t get snookered into emptying your bank account, you can still fall victim to cybercrime on a dating app. These apps often encourage users to share as much about themselves as possible so that they can meet their “perfect match.” As a result, they are repositories of a wealth of personal information, including full name, location, birth date, employment information and income bracket, educational history, links to social media profiles, and even religious and political affiliations.
Don’t wear your heart — or your password — on your sleeve
Looking for love is an emotional process, but it’s important to keep your head in the game when using online dating apps. Here are five tips to stay safe.
- Never send money, debit cards, or gifts to online love interests.
- Be careful about what personal information you give the app, and make sure to disable location tracking features. If you wouldn’t freely disclose something to a stranger on the street, don’t include it on a dating profile.
- Don’t link the dating app to your social media profiles. It’s another way for cybercriminals to build a profile of you for identity theft or social engineering schemes.
- Use multi-factor authentication (2FA) to secure your online dating accounts. If an app doesn’t offer 2FA protection, you may wish to consider not using it.
- Use a strong, unique password for all of your online accounts, and store them in a password manager such as Keeper.
Keeper generates high-strength random passwords for all your sites and apps and stores them for you in a personal, encrypted digital vault that you can access from all of your computers and mobile devices. You’ll never lose or forget another password again!