Love in a Digital Age: The Risks and Dangers of Online Dating

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Love in a Digital Age: The Risks and Dangers of Online Dating

It is undeniable that finding someone to date nowadays is a lot easier in comparison to previous generations. This phenomenon is not surprising seeing that just last year the dating app industry earned a whopping 4.94 billion dollars in revenue, this statistic only incentivizes the developers of well-known dating apps to improve and do better so that they’ll stay at the top, while also encouraging fresh competitors to join the industry.

While many meme it, it is quite obvious that, if given the chance, there are a lot of people who want to meet who want to meet their romantic partners. And while this is a respectable way of finding someone, it is far more dangerous than trying to build a trustworthy connection before eventually deciding to be partners. It is undeniable that websites where you get to meet new people are infested with many undesirable personalities, from disrespectful people to straight-up criminals. We’ve written this blog so that you’ll know how to identify these kinds of people and what you can do to protect yourself from them.

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What has and can happen

November 10, 2014, in the Baltimore suburb of Nottingham, a 12-year-old girl had gone out for another day at school, but hours later she had not arrived home. Her mother called the school wondering if her child was still on the school grounds, to her surprise the girl had also not entered the institution, this was the moment the mother had to call the authorities to help her find her child.

After four days of investigation, the child was found with a 34-year-old man who was already on probation for assaulting a woman. After the child was rescued, she later revealed that her abductor had forced her to engage in sexual activities twice within the residences she was held captive at. Further into the investigation, it was found that the abductor had been one of the men this 12-year-old girl had been talking to within a random chatting platform. While these conversations had helped the authorities to track down the girl, they also allowed her abductor to gain personal information about her. 

This happening is a clear example of the dangers that online dating/random chatting apps and websites pose. A security feature that many apps and websites have and advertise is ‘anonymity.’ It is a deterrent to these kinds of scenarios, but it is a weak one, considering there are many workarounds both through the use of surface-level tracking and emotional manipulation.

Examples of surface-level tracking are seen in popular Omegle ‘prank’ videos where people these pranksters use a program that tracks someone’s Internet Protocol (IP) Address or the format of the data sent by a device into a local area network or the internet. In other words, IP address broadcasts where you are simply because you are using the internet (or a local network), and while watching these reveals happen on camera is amusing, its applications go deeper and CAN do more damage than making you freak out when someone knows where you live. Another workaround many people have done, usually those that want to do something to the person they are chatting with, is emotional manipulation, this is when someone tries to quickly win your trust so that they can sneakily demand something, like your home address. 

With these in mind plus the reach and how easy it is for anyone to use the internet, it is easy to see the threat these people pose to the online community. 

Those who benefit from the act

A. Catfishers/Catfishing

image of a man with hidden face and wearing a hoodie signifying a catfisher

Posers, impostors, catfishers, an average of 20,000 individuals get catfished per year in America alone, a shocking statistic since many people are now aware of this phenomenon, some 20% of men even admit to having been fooled five times! But what are Catfishers?

These are people who personal information from someone and pose as that person to achieve a variety of goals, at the surface level these people may just be pulling a prank, however it can go as deep as someone posing so that they can trick you into doing something they want, which is either asking you for nude photos, extracting money from you, or getting you to meet with them in person. 

B. Scammers 

showing hands holding money indicating scammers

Scamming was mentioned above, and while catfishing can be used to scam people, scammers in general do not need to steal as much information as catfishers nor are they required to steal at all, except your money of course. Scammers specialize mostly in human engineering or in the “art” of persuading someone to open their pockets for them, and while their tactics mostly stay the same with the catfishers, these people are mainly going to go after your money. 

FTC.gov published a report that said that a staggering $1.3 billion has been lost to scammers who have successfully preyed on their victims. This loss only shows that scammers are increasingly becoming more and more advanced in their techniques when it comes to engineering people, so always stay vigilant.

C. Predators and Criminals 

gloved hand typing on laptop keyboard indicating online predator and criminal

Lastly, are the people who are like the one in the previous section. Because of how easy it is to get into the internet, Predators and Criminals have been utilizing it for their gain as well. We are specifically talking about people who want to harm someone in some way simply because they want to do it. Sadly, these are also the ones most common in random chatting and online dating platforms. But fear not. While it is nearly impossible to control everyone that goes into these apps and websites (yes, EC included), there are precautions that you can take to avoid these people and how you can handle them if they ever cross paths with you. Right here! 😉.

Conclusion

While authorities have done their best to counteract the individuals highlighted in this blog post, as long as they exist, the internet will not be a 100% safe place for anyone. But with this blog post, we hope we’ve shed some light on who these individuals are, their traits, tendencies, and goals, and what they do. As a final note, true safety begins with you. Once you take precautions and learn enough knowledge to know how to handle when you face someone who may seem similar to the kind of people highlighted in this post, the results will begin to manifest. We hope you found this blog post helpful and if you can, please share this post to help spread awareness. Until next time, goodbye and stay safe!



References:

  1. https://www.businessofapps.com/data/dating-app-market/
  2. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/11/12-year-olds-online-life-brings-an-abductor-to-her-doorstep/
  3. https://www.kaspersky.com/resource-center/definitions/what-is-an-ip-address
  4. https://legaljobs.io/blog/catfishing-statistics/
  5. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/data-visualizations/data-spotlight/2023/02/romance-scammers-favorite-lies-exposed

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