In recent years, established online dating sites such as match.com have seen increasing competition from an influx of new sites and apps such as Tinder and the newly-launched LinkedUp, a dating site for professionals that uses details from your LinkedIn profile.
One in five relationships are now estimated to begin online and there are numerous services promising perfect matches. So it's little wonder that lonely hearts are flocking to web sites and apps (both established and new) with the desire of meeting a partner - either for a lasting relationship or for a one-night stand.
However, in the hunt for company, many men are putting themselves at risk, becoming an unwitting target for scammers and cyber-thieves. In search of a fast date, many men are turning to the less regulated referral service, Craigslist - a less reputable sites that has become a perfect target for cybercriminals. Craigslist has a high percentage of fake listings generated by spam services and bots exclusively targeted at men interested in a quick date - aimed at victims in both the US and UK.
The fake listings promise to make fantasies come true to entice their targets. However, once the victim responds, they are inundated with e-mails from different 'women' sending pictures and offers to liaise. The spam e-mails are typically the same, although the scammers continually shut down and replace the domains, in order to stay 'light on their feet'.
The scammers cash-in - literally! - on people's sensible caution around meeting someone via the Internet. They direct their victims to a custom 'verification site' where, for a fee, they are invited to prove their age and intentions. And as if paying this fake charge were not enough, we've seen reports that further charges are made for embarrassing subscription services well in excess of the 'verification fee'.
The world of online dating has always drawn the attention of fraudsters, since it offers a large pool of potential victims: this is just one example. This isn't to say that dating services are untrustworthy per se - there are many legitimate services. But less regulated sites come with added risk, and the effects can be far reaching.
Red flags to look out for on dating sites and apps:
- Scams like these emulate legitimate services and often display false indicators of trust, such as safety and security certifications - for example, secure web site logos. So beware of automatically accepting such logos as confirmation of authenticity.
- The format of an e-mail may indicate that it has been generated by a bot, rather than a human. Correspondence that is stilted, irregular or looks unnatural usually feels that way for a reason. Ignore any further e-mails from your 'suitor'.
- The allure of meeting new people for quick encounters may set the pulse racing, but if an unknown online service requests credit card or other financial information, consider this as a red flag.