If there is one thing 2020 has forced most people to do, is to learn how to get things done on the internet. From shopping to ordering meals, working virtually to catching up with loved ones, and yes, even though you might not admit it, you may have wandered into one or two dating websites in the recent past.
Online dating has been around for as long as web chats became a thing and has had its fair share of controversies over that period. People often shy away from it because of the bad reputation it has but that’s not to say you can’t find your better half on the internet. So how safe is online dating in 2020 and what can you do to protect yourself?
The hidden dangers of online dating in 2020
Romance fraud and scams
You’ve probably heard stories of people who lost money to online fraudsters pretending to be lovers in distress on the internet. There is a lot of romance fraud and scams on dating websites so you need to be cautious who you talk to and what you do for them. Women are especially vulnerable to such scams according to reports.
Luckily, most romance frauds and scams follow the same old script where you find a partner who starts asking you to wire some money because they are in some kind of trouble. Most will say that they are working in a foreign NGO, foreign military base, in an oil rig, volunteering in a warzone, etc.
Phishing is an old technique used by online fraudsters to find people who are gullible and looking for an online lover. It involves sending thousands of emails to would-be victims hoping that some of them will respond at some point. The email or text message you receive will often have a persuasive narrative about a person having trouble finding a lover in a foreign country.
Ways to stay safe
Try and sign up on legitimate dating websites that have strict membership rules. Avoid dating on social media and websites that do not ask for identity verification.
Whatever you do, never be tempted into sending money to an online partner before you get to see them in person. Most online romance fraudsters will try to lure you into falling in love with them before they start asking for favors. Be careful if you are asked to wire money with Western Union, MoneyGram, Bitcoin or to purchase gift cards on Amazon and Walmart at some point.
To be safe, always use a VPN when accessing online dating websites in 2020. The functions of a VPN includes securing your online activity and hiding your IP address. Your data will be encrypted and sent through a secure channel at all times.
Do not move your communication away from the dating website unless you trust the person on the other end and have met them in person.
Be aware of phishing scams, which have become even more sophisticated in 2020 as fraudsters now have access to more personal information about their victims, mostly taken from social media. They might mention you by name and tailor the message according to the information they have about you. Do not respond to unsolicited dating emails no matter how legitimate they might seem.
All in all, online dating can be fun and lead you to your life partner. However, you must be cautious to avoid being scammed and taken for a ride in the process. Stay safe!