Cybersecurity concerns of online dating

ThreatMetrix announced several ways for consumers to stay protected from online dating fraud and malware as Valentine’s Day approaches. According to Fast Company, online dating grew to a staggering $4 billion industry in 2012, making the industry a prime target for cybercriminals.

To stay protected, ThreatMetrix has identified five of the top cybersecurity threats for consumers to be aware of when looking for love online:

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 U.S. sends the scammer a money order or check, only to never hear from the match again.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The most effective way for consumers to stay safe when online dating is to use caution and only register for credible dating sites that have sophisticated cybersecurity solutions in place. Online dating sites utilize cybercrime prevention solutions in three key areas: customer authentication when an account is created, transaction authentication at the time of payment and user authentication for log-ins.

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