On the whole, online dating is a fun and exciting place to be where you’re able to meet someone new without having to leave the comfort and safety of your bed or your sofa.
However, as our lives become increasingly social media-dependent, there is a darker side of online dating that is growing rapidly. Hackers and fraudsters are getting cleverer and using technology to deceive a growing number of people.
Can online dating apps and sites do more to protect their users from catfish and dating scammers?
What responsibility do dating apps have to vet people?
Some apps do very little. The potential consequences of not doing anything can be catastophic, as has been seen in some news stories of late. This leads to an onus on the dater (user) to undertake their own vetting process.
I’ve come across quite a few scammers in my time and have spoken with many others who have encountered scammers.
Here are four of the most common romance scams:
1) Those who tell you they’re single but they’re lying to you because they’re secretly married. This is the ultimate lie and it’s usually because that person wants a bunk-up! It’s very hard to see through this lie at first but you can do your own Google search of someone once you know their full name. “Tin Eye” is also a good search engine to use where you can upload a photo of someone and it will tell you where the image appears on the web.
2) Those with only one or two photos posted which aren’t really of them. They’ll usually look like a model. They build up a relationship with someone before then hitting them with a sob story. Their aim is to try and swindle money out of a user’s bank account by asking them to pay for travel costs or medical costs. They will never meet you, as they are using someone else’s photos and/or pretending to be someone they’re not. Never send money to anyone no matter what!
3) Those with two or three photos posted but they’re not smiling in their photos, they’re wearing sunglasses, or they only have photos of their face. What are they hiding? If you come across someone like this, you need to either avoid this person completely or find out more about them and ask to see more photos of them as well.
4) Those who put up photos of themselves from 10 years ago – or even older than this! They do this to try and secure a face-to-face date, but the truth will always come out in the end, so what’s the point in lying? It will only end up disappointment anyway!
In the humble opinion of many and through experiences we have all had, finding genuine people can be very difficult. It can be hard to figure out if someone is telling you the truth or not.
Identity Verification is one way of putting an end to Catfishing. Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have long offered profile authenticity of public figures and other celebrities. A checkmark is added next to their name to confirm the legitimacy of the account. However, identity verification is a feature that is still missing on many other social media services today, including online dating and on most mobile dating apps and I feel that all dating sites and apps should begin using this feature.
A couple of dating apps have recently launched a feature that lets users verify their identities. Badoo and Bumble show the user a gesture and asks them to upload a photo replicating it. This way they can’t use something already on their phones or computers. While Badoo and Bumble users can still use the app without taking such photos, users can change their settings to see only “verified profiles”, which means potential catfish won’t be seen as often.
Other ways dating apps can vet people better
Here are some ways I feel that the vetting process on online dating apps could be made more vigorous and therefore increase safety:
1) Before users can upload a profile to the app, their profile should be vetted. The dating app sends them a code. They then have to take a picture of themselves with the code, plus the current date and time written on a piece of paper. This will verify they are a real person and are the same person that’s in the profile pics that they wish to upload.
2) The dating app could have the use of designated bars/restaurants in specific areas, where their users can meet their date. It would be a safe environment for both people to be able to relax in and really get to know each other on their first couple of dates. The staff in the designated meeting place could also be seen as an added layer of security and be trained to do certain things should things go wrong on the date and when someone’s safety is compromised.
3) The dating app could also incorporate GPS tracking so if the user feels vulnerable at any time, they can press an SOS button and the dating app can call them and make sure they are safe. The dating app could also call the police.
4) The dating app could have a customer services department. If you’ve been on a date and you feel like the person was mentally unstable or aggressive or just had something about them that didn’t feel right, you could call someone and express your concerns. The dating site could then keep a record of any complaints. If there are more than two complaints of the same nature about the same person, then they could be removed from the dating app.
To find out more about catfishing, how you can spot a dating scammer and what you should put on your own dating profile, you can purchase my book, Love At First Swipe, which is available at Amazon. My book is a comprehensive guide to modern online dating for people of every age, gender, orientation, and ability.
One of the early reviews of my book