Are you on Tinder? With 75 million monthly active users, you might be able to find the right one. However there are also traps you need to look out for. Read more about catfishing, sextortion, phishing and other practices used by scammers.
“It’s a match” is now a common expression in the dating scene, and “I’m on Tinder” is synonymous for “dating and available”. It doesn’t necessarily mean you are about to meet the love of your life — maybe you won’t ever talk — but it means there is mutual attraction between you and the someone you’ve “swiped right.” In fact, “swiping left/right on someone” is another term we’ve all gotten used to.
With 75 million active users monthly users and 10.6 million subscribers, Tinder recorded over 70 billion matches in 10 years that led to 1.5 million dates per week.
Falling for the wrong one!
But here’s the thing: no digital platform can protect you from those with ill intentions. This is what we’ve seen recently on the Netflix documentary Tinder Swindler, which tells the story of several women scammed by the same man — a real person, a profile with several pictures, linked social media accounts and even photo verification, who managed to steal US$10 million after love bombing his victims and luring them into financing his luxury lifestyle. Just like this guy, there are many other people taking advantage of other people’s loneliness and longing to meet their other halves, be it for a lifetime or just for a night.
What kind of traps should you be looking for?
As we all get more comfortable navigating love and relationships in the digital world, chances are we also become less alert. Here are a few ways you can be scammed:
- Personal data and identity theft
This is the basic scam. Generally, these profiles use stock images that seem like they come directly from a model agency catalog or, taking the opposite path, they use super amateur, blurry and sexually suggestive images. In both cases these are most likely scammers trying to get you to swipe right.
When you do, they won’t lose any time. Under the premise that they “don’t spend much time on Tinder,” they will ask for your phone number to connect on WhatsApp to “get to know each other better.” At this stage, you are already handing over personal information. It is now much easier for the scammer to find your social media profiles, steal pictures, and collect other data.
Sometimes scammers don’t want your money; instead, they might want your attention or company. Catfishers are real people who create fake personas using personal information, photos and videos stolen from other people — usually from someone they previously scammed. It might sound harmless, but catfishing can cause a lot of distress and can go on for months or years. These users are ready to take their lies as far as needed to get you to fall for them.
Be alert that catfishing scams might also involve money and presents, and they might be used to steal your personal information, to send you malware, or even to carry out spying activities.
Tinder allows you to connect your Instagram and Spotify accounts to your profile, presenting it as a way to ensure that the person you’re talking to is real. But this is also a great source of information for anyone creating a fake persona. The more real details about someone, the more plausible it all feels.
“Sending nudes” and “sexting,” two activities that are just as popular as they are deeply risky, make you an easy target for scammers to take advantage of. Despite it being more and more common to share naked pictures, this is still something society expects to be private, if not secretive. Ultimately, sextortion can lead to a great deal of pain and anguish that have already resulted in victims taking away their lives.
Scammers are very aware of the vicious impact exposure might have on you, and they will take advantage of it. As a safety feature, Tinder does not allow users to share any pictures, but once you’re out of their ecosystem and start texting on a different app, you can become an easy prey for a blackmailer. In exchange for keeping your pictures private, you will be requested a ransom that you will most likely pay in fear of the shame or even the possibility of losing your job. Remember, however, that once some malicious actor takes over your photos, it is likely they will stay on the web forever and might even be sold to other websites without your knowledge or consent.
Keep in mind that while there are sextortion scams, as unexpected emails sent by unknown people claiming to have your nudes, sextortion involves someone that you have indeed sent your images to. It is more than just a scam, it is a crime.
Being on Tinder, you are also vulnerable to different malware and phishing attacks. You can easily be misled into opening a link you shouldn’t or giving out a random verification code that will give the scammer access to your accounts.
But it can be even trickier! Imagine you successfully get through the first message exchanges and decide to go on a date. Great! And your date suggests you go to the theater together, which feels like a good idea! Your date sends you the link to the play and asks you to buy the tickets because their card is not working for online purchases, and you, without blinking, fill out your credit card details and press “buy.”
However, in reality, you’ve just entered your banking details in a fake website, created for the sole purpose of stealing your information and money. Meanwhile, your date suddenly unmatched you and disappeared.
- Financial romance scams
This scam is the hardest to detect and also to perform. Romance-related financial scams have been around forever, but the digital age allows scammers to reach much higher than ever before. These scammers will groom you as much as needed to get something in return. These are real people, with real profiles, but deeply bad intentions. And don’t think they just search for high incomes — getting you to pay for expensive lunches and dinners, something many will do to impress, is enough for many.
Apart from the obvious financial impact of this scam, there is also an important emotional distress that is hard to avoid when one understands what they’ve just been through.
The human factor
Truth be told, we all portray our best self when going on a date, hiding that ugly side we all seem to have. In a way, we are all likely to behave as scammers. The difference is that while we want to charm those we’re going out with, the real scammers want to harm us. This is why it is essential to make sure we know how to avoid risky situations, and there are a few steps that are easy to follow:
- Don’t go out of Tinder into other messaging apps. This will keep you in a safer environment where you can easily report a scammer, protecting yourself and other users.
- Don’t open links sent through Tinder, especially if they have a short URL.
- If you decide to move the conversation to another app, such as WhatsApp, don’t send pictures of yourself that might be misused.
- Trust your gut. If a profile looks too good to be true or is too incomplete, swipe left and protect yourself from a possible scam.
Always keep in mind that the risk doesn’t only take place online, but also in real life. Always consider your safety first when meeting someone. Share your location with a friend and meet in busy public spaces. This tip is even more important for people from any vulnerable group that can be more exposed to violence or theft. Remember, if you’re going to play with matches, make sure you don’t get burned
For more information and tips to stay safe while surfing for love, come back next week, as we will cover dating apps privacy settings. Stay safe and stay tuned!
by André Lameiras, ESET