“Lookin’ for Love in All the Wrong Places” is the title of a country music standard that pretty much sums it up for the people who are victimized to the tune of more than $50 million online each year. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, cybercrime has become so widespread in online dating that an estimated one in 10 dating profiles are scams. Presumably the other nine only resort to exaggeration.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner cybercriminals will be out in force to take advantage of, what the Fast Company estimates, was a $4 billion industry last year.
“Unfortunately, the online dating market not only attracts people genuinely looking to meet, it also attracts cybercriminals, both foreign and domestic, who use fake profiles to steal personal and financial information,” said Alisdair Faulkner, chief products officer, ThreatMetrix™. “Recognizing the huge profits in online dating, cybercriminals have found several sophisticated ways to target innocent users. To prevent attacks, consumers must be vigilant of the information they share with online suitors, and commercial dating sites should make cybersecurity a top priority by implementing an integrated device identification and malware prevention solution.”
Following are ThreatMetrix’s top five cybersecurity threats to consumers:
1. Love/Romance Scam – Cybercriminals create fake accounts and in many cases ask online dating matches to wire money so they can meet. For example, a fraudster may say he is in the Philippines and ask the online dating user to send a check or wire money to cover travel costs. The victim in the US sends the scammer a money order or check, only to never hear from the match again.
2. Fake Profiles – Cybercriminals use fake profiles, including photos and descriptions, to gain trust and take advantage of online dating customers. They also share malicious links with their dating matches, which can result in malware being downloaded on the user’s device. These cybercriminals are not seeking their soul mate, but rather seeking substantial information from users with the end goal of compromising credit cards and bank accounts.
3. Mobile Dating – Geo-location on smart phones enables cybercriminals to practically know a user’s exact location at all times. Users must make sure they are not telling online dating matches when they are away from home or out of the country. Cybercriminals can seize this opportunity to rob the person’s house.
4. Credit Card Fraud– Cybercriminals frequently use online dating sites to “test” stolen credit cards. If the card is accepted in the purchase of virtual goods, such as an online dating membership, the criminal will move on to purchasing physical goods like consumer electronics.
5. Identity Theft – Third-party applications downloaded from dating sites may ask users for permission to view their address book or stored contacts, which can lead to more sensitive information being leaked and ultimately, identity theft. Once the application has access to certain information on a device, this opens the door for them to hack personal and financial data saved on the device.
Every day and most especially Valentine’s Day the most effective way for consumers to be safe online is use caution. Only register with dating sites that have sophisticated cybersecurity solutions in place; sites that utilize cybercrime prevention solutions in three key areas:
- Customer authentication when an account is created
- Transaction authentication at the time of payment
- User authentication for log-ins
Implementing preventative cybercrime measures, dating websites create a safer and more positive user experience. They protect the integrity of their brands and improve customer satisfaction and increase word-of-mouth, the least expensive way to retain customers and acquire new ones.
Avalanche, LLC, a network of eighteen niche online dating sites, including Date.com, hosts more than 10 million users worldwide. To protect those users, Avalanche looks to ThreatMetrix.
“On Date.com and our other sites, there are millions of members who trust us to pair them with a compatible match,” said Kris Covino, co-founder and CTO at Avalanche. “The last thing we want is for the integrity of our sites to be compromised by cybercriminals, which is why we turned to ThreatMetrix. My counsel to anyone who dates online is to have fun, but always use common sense. The bottom line is – don’t do anything differently than if you were meeting a stranger face-to-face in the real world.”
For more information and an infographic about the above information, visit http://threatmetrix.com/resource-center/infographics/.