Love is blind, but finding online romance is like running blindfolded in a minefield these days. Keep safe with these tips…

Imagine finding the perfect match online, only to be lured into a fake dating app that steals your personal information and financial details. That is the reality of phishing. Fraudsters are extensively creating fake webpages identical to popular dating apps to trick individuals into giving up their sensitive information.

The end result can be identity theft, financial fraud, and even extortion, all of which can strain your relationship and cause a loss of trust. Additionally, the stolen data could even be sold on dark web markets.

Here is a list of digital scams to watch out for:

    • Fake apps
      Cybercriminals exploit the names of most popular dating apps such as Tinder, Badoo, Bumble, Grinder and many others to spread their malicious activity. Most often they distribute adware, which bombards users with multiple notifications, but there are also attacks with ‘trojan spies’ that monitor your online activity, and ‘trojan downloaders’ that install other malicious programs to your smart device. This puts your privacy and security at risk and can cause emotional distress in your relationship.
    • Doxing (or Doxxing)
      This refers to the act of uncovering and publicly sharing someone’s personal information for malicious purposes. In the context of online dating, sensitive information can be publicized to harm or blackmail the individual. This can result in physical danger as well as psychological distress such as anxiety and shame, and can negatively impact mental health and relationships. In the worst-case scenario, doxing can also escalate into real-life hazards, putting you and your partner at risk of physical harm. The emotional distress of having your sensitive personal information exposed can also strain your relationship.
    • Catfishing
      Kaspersky telemetry records numerous spam emails that use attractive profiles and fake identities to lure unsuspecting victims into providing personal information or engaging in online communications. These emails can spread malware, steal sensitive information, or scam victims out of their money. Many victims may form emotional connections with the fake identities before realizing they have been scammed, and this can lead to emotional distress, disappointment and insidious effects on mental health and well-being.
    • Stalkerware
      Such malware can be secretly installed on a device to monitor victims’ online activities and track their location. According to Kaspersky, 29,312 people worldwide were affected by stalkerware in 2022. This invasion of privacy can lead to a breakdown of trust in the relationship, and emotional distress for the victim. In extreme cases, it can even put the victim’s physical safety at risk.

According to a privacy and security expert at Kaspersky, Anna Larkina: “Stay safe by using secure connections, keeping your personal information private, and being cautious of unsolicited requests. By being proactive, you can protect yourself and have a fulfilling online dating experience,” alluding to the following best practices that need to be kept in mind online at all times:

    • Verify all information at all times: Before meeting someone in person or sharing personal information, verify their identity through their social media profiles, Google search, or other methods. Trust your gut and do not hesitate to end communication with someone who seems suspicious or untrustworthy.
    • Use a secure connection: When sharing personal information on online dating platforms, your connection can mean the difference between you having romantic adventures and ransomware nightmares.
    • Practice good password hygiene: Use strong and unique passwords for all online dating accounts, and do not use the same password for multiple accounts.
    • Avoid oversharing: Do not share sensitive information with anyone until you have built a verifiable, trustworthy relationship
    • Meet in public: When meeting someone from an online service in person for the first time, choose a well-lit, public location and let a friend or family member know where you will be.
    • Be cautious of unsolicited requests: Such requests for money or other favors, especially if they seem unreasonable or are made early in the relationship, are a dead giveaway of scams.
    • Report any suspicious activity: If you suspect that you have been a victim of online dating fraud, report it to the authorities and the online dating platform as soon as possible, rather than try to stay out of the anticipated questioning and interrogations.
    • Follow the tips from Kaspersky: “Definitive Checklist: how to protect your data online
    • Install secure and trusted security solutions: Not just online romantic pursuits, but ALL online activities you engage in, should be safeguarded by properly configured and trusted security apps.