Love is in the air this Valentine’s Day, and for many, it inspires to look for a special someone. However, as online dating popularity continues to grow so do the threats from cybercriminals looking to exploit vulnerable individuals. In 2022, there were over 366 million online dating service users.
By 2027, it is estimated that there will be 440 million people seeking love through online platforms – this is despite past research by Kaspersky which found that 37% of people surveyed in the Middle East, Turkiye and Africa region worry about being scammed on dating apps. In the spirit of love and sharing, Kaspersky is spotlighting its top five online dating threats to watch out for this Valentine’s Day – and its experts’ tips for staying safe when dating online.
#1 Phishing for dating resources
Watch out for enigmatic ads and messages that could lure you to a fake dating app or website that steals your personal information and financial details. That’s the reality of phishing – Kaspersky researchers report intensified scamming activity amid the Valentine’s season with fraudsters 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. Additionally, the stolen data could even be sold on dark web markets and used for other nefarious activities. Any and all of these activities could lead to immense personal stress, not to mention the potential financial and legal implications.
#2 Fake apps
Love may be blind, but malware is not. This malicious software can invade your device through files mimicking online dating services. During the last few months, Kaspersky experts have seen cybercriminals exploiting the names of the 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 were also attacks with Trojan Spies, which monitors online activity, and Trojan downloaders, which might install other malicious programs to the victim’s computer. This puts your privacy and security at risk and can cause emotional distress.
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Doxing refers to the act of uncovering and publicly sharing someone’s personal information. This can be especially concerning in the context of online dating, where sensitive information can be used to harm, cyberbully, or blackmail the individual. This can result in physical danger, as well as psychological distress, such as anxiety and shame, and negatively impacting mental health and overall wellbeing. In the worst-case scenario, it can also transfer to real-life danger, putting you and potentially other people in your life at risk of physical harm.
Who doesn’t love the idea of chatting with an attractive stranger online? Unfortunately, not all connections are as genuine as they seem. 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. They can also lead to emotional distress and disappointment, as victims may form emotional connections with the fake identities before realising they’ve been scammed. This can also have huge negative effects on mental health and well-being.
Stalkerware is a type of software that can be secretly installed on a device to monitor the user’s online activities and track their location. According to Kaspersky, 29,312 people worldwide were affected by stalkerware in 2022. Importantly, not only does the presence of stalkerware mean that a user’s online activity and personal data are vulnerable to being exploited for nefarious intent, but because stalkerware can track a user’s live location, extreme cases and targeted cases online can lead to offline stalking, and this places the user’s safety at risk in the physical world as well.
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“The beauty of online dating is the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world, but with that comes the risk of cybercrime. 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,” comments Anna Larkina, privacy and security expert at Kaspersky.
Learn about the ways users can be doxed and discover how to minimise the risk of having personal information stolen by watching the free “Doxing: dangers and prevention” course, developed by Kaspersky privacy experts together with Endtab.org.
Kaspersky privacy experts share tips for a safe online dating experience:
- Verify information: 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 don’t hesitate to end communication with someone who seems suspicious or untrustworthy.
- Use a secure connection: Use a secure and encrypted connection when sharing personal information on online dating platforms to prevent hacking or eavesdropping.
- Keep passwords secure: Use strong and unique passwords for all online dating accounts, and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
- Avoid oversharing: Don’t share sensitive information, such as your full name, address, and financial details, until you have built a trusting relationship.
- Meet in public: When meeting someone 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: Be wary of requests for money or other favours, especially if they seem unreasonable or are made early in the relationship.
- 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.
- Handle private online data responsibly by following the tips from the Kaspersky “Definitive Checklist: how to protect your data online”
- Protect yourself online by using secure and trusted security solutions. This will help safeguard your personal information and prevent potential threats from online dating.
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