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Just like the rest of the world, I was catching up on an episode of TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé: Before The 90 Days, and I came across this couple – Maria and Caesar. From the first 2 minutes of their love story, I had a gut feeling that poor Caesar got himself entangled in an online scam, nevertheless everyone else in his circle was getting a funky vibe besides him. Watching this show has made me hyper-aware of the concerns with finding love online, and now is not the time to be caught up in an online dating scam (unless you’re TLC, and you’ve created a worldwide fandom off of people’s happiness, heartbreak and naivety #LoveThatShow).

We’re in an age where technology is at the center of our lives dictating how we work, but especially how we play. Online dating has become one of the most exhilarating ways to meet new people from around the world, and as many as 1 in 3 persons in a room are currently signed-up on at least one dating app right now. There’s no shortage of dating platforms to take your pick, and whether you sign up for free or pay a premium – we have popular options nowadays like Tinder, Grindr, Bumble, Facebook Dating, Hinge, Match.com, e-Harmony, OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, and the list goes on and on.

Whether you’re into one-time hook-ups, fetishes, or specifics like nationality, race, or religion, there’s a place for you to find what or who you’re into. But just before you go on a swiping spree, here are some of the hard facts about online dating in Canada that should be on your radar:

  • Canadians lost more than $22.5 million in online dating scams in 2018 (compared to $17 million in 2012).
  • 55% of online daters have experienced some form of threat or issue while dating online, and are twice as likely to experience an IT security incident when compared to people who don’t.
  • Only 27% of online daters use a security solution to protect their device, and 16% do nothing at all to protect themselves.
  • Crimes involving dating apps have doubled in the last 4 years including actual incidents of murder.

So here’s the thing, these stats aren’t meant to make you delete all your dating apps and give up on love – it’s intended to create a greater awareness of the potential dangers that you’re exposed to by doing it. I can tell you that many people including myself have had great experiences with online dating, and according to a survey by SimpleTexting, “15% of couples who’ve met on a dating service have been seeing each other for over a year, and 13.6% are already engaged or married“. This is likely because these folks are taking appropriate precautions while doing so. Sadly, there are still many victims of romance scams, and we hear stories just like these ones all the time, nationally and internationally – Just last November, Global News posted a story about Michelle Boyer, a local Ottawa woman who became a victim of an online dating scam and said that her lover “made me feel like a real person, by telling me he loved me and I was beautiful – my ex never said stuff like that.” They also posted a story about a widowed senior named Margaret, who lost up to $140K to her online lover, and as a result, had to sell her car and move out of her condominium!

Never forget that scammers prey on your insecurities and they know exactly what buttons to push to get what they want from you. But let’s also not forget about the dating platforms and the role they play in all of this.

A few weeks ago, Grindr, OkCupid and Tinder, were at the center of controversy when they were accused of disclosing highly personal information and breaking privacy laws. Each app denied many of the accusations, but what you should always keep top of mind is that all of these apps have access to your DM’s, private photos and videos that you share with others on their platform. If you didn’t know by now, data breaches are a very real thing, and if one of these platforms were to get hacked, your information (as well any dirty laundry you may have out there) would be on full display – just ask the profile users over at Ashley Maddison…

So here’s the part of this blog that can actually help you out if you’re an online dater.

These are some major Tell-Tale signs to know if you’re caught up in an online dating scam:

  • It feels like they virtually don’t exist. They’re not on any other social media platforms (can’t find them when you Google Search, no LinkedIn profile etc.)
  • If you can’t find them on social media or if they have a profile that doesn’t go back a very long time and there is little activity happening on their feed/timelines.
  • They send you supermodel/stock looking photos, and never want to video chat with you or meet-up in person (You can always Google search images to find it’s origin).
  • This one goes without saying, but if they’re quick to say “I Love You” this is a bright red flag waving in-front of you.
  • Within a short period of time chatting with them, they’ve already asked you to send them money.
  • They try to keep you from your relatives and close friends, and create a narrative that it wouldn’t be a good idea for them to make an introduction.
  • They ask you for provocative photos (aka nudes) or videos which can later be used against you if they try to extort money.
  • They claim to be a member of the military (many romance scammers impersonate soldiers and other people in positions of trust).

Online Safety Tips For Dating:

  1. Never give out your real home address, work address, phone number in private messages, or when signing up.
  2. Take your time until you build up trust – Don’t let users quickly persuade you to continue conversations on others apps like WhatsApp or iMessage.
  3. Turn off your location settings, or use them sparingly.
  4. Be cautious of how much identifiable information you use on your profile. That includes displaying your education, employer etc.
  5. It may be best to sign up for paid dating apps since the free apps are more likely to sell your data and are more vulnerable to cyber-threats.
  6. Bonus Tip: Beware of platforms that are known for having a reputation such as: sugardaddyforme.com, Miss Travel, Ugly Schmucks, Zoosk, Date Hook Up, and worth mentioning again, Ashley Maddison.

To end this off, I just want to say be smart, be aware, be safe and most importantly good luck with finding love and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

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