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Find your Valentine without getting scammed: the cybersecurity guide to online dating

By Eric Brynaert
Product Marketing Manager

While online dating has been around since 1995, it has seen explosive growth in the past decade. Dating apps are now a common way for people to connect and find their special person. With dozens of these apps available, it can be a convenient and fun way to meet new people, but it does come with certain risks to manage.  

Let’s talk tips and best practices for staying safe while using dating apps. From creating strong passwords to being cautious about sharing personal information, we’ll cover everything you need to know to navigate the world of online dating safely, no matter your age or background. 

1. Create a different username and password for each dating app that you use. 

This isn’t exclusive advice for dating apps, it’s something you should do across all your digital accounts with the help of a password manager. 

If a hacker gains access to one of your dating app accounts, they may try to use the same login information to access your other profiles. By using a unique username and password for each app, you make it harder for hackers to gain access to multiple accounts in the event of a cybersecurity breach.  

2. Be cautious about what personal information you put in your profile and share with other users 

While you always want to be your most authentic self when looking for love, it’s important to be careful about exactly how up front you are on dating apps. By sharing too much personal information, you risk exposing yourself to spearphishing attacks (a targeted form of phishing attack that uses personalized information to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information ), identity theft and other cybercrimes. Cybercriminals are skilled manipulators of human emotions, and dating apps often provide them with opportunities to gain a victim’s affection and trust which they then exploit for criminal gain. We’ve all heard of the Tinder Swindler by now, so be cautious. 

Sharing personal information such as your job or location may make it easy for cybercriminals to steal your information or track your whereabouts, or lead to unwanted attention or harassment from other users. Only share what is necessary to protect yourself and your personal information. 

3. Be careful about what images you upload and share 

Images can reveal sensitive information about yourself, such as your location, workplace, and personal habits. For example, if you share images of yourself at a specific location, it can be used to track your whereabouts or even stalk you. While your latest Instagram selfie may capture your best angle, avoid sharing it on your dating profile—criminals can reverse-search them and find your profiles.  

Additionally, images can also be used by cybercriminals to steal your identity or impersonate you. With the accelerated rate at which AI image generators have developed, having pictures of yourself freely available online compounds this risk. We recommend not reusing images that you already have posted on other sources such as social media, ensuring there is no easily identifiable information in the photo, and limiting the number of images you upload to your profile  

4. Never, ever send money or sensitive information to people you meet while online dating.  

Scammers often use dating apps and other online platforms to trick people into sending them money or personal information. They may create fake profiles to impersonate someone you would like to get to know (called catphishing), and then ask for money—a phenomenon so popular that MTV based an entire TV series off of it. Once you have sent money, it’s nearly impossible to recover and it may put you at risk of identity theft or other forms of fraud.  

The same goes for sensitive information—while letting people in on the intimate details of our lives is the foundation of many relationships, make sure you meet your match in person and verify their identity before you share too much. In the wrong hands, your personal information can be used against you.  

5. Always make sure to meet your match publicly for the first time.  

Finally, meeting your online dating match in public for the first time is especially important. There is safety in numbers and a public space allows for a neutral environment, without the pressure of being alone in a private location. It also allows you to verify their identity (need we mention catphishing again?) and compare their behavior to the information they provided you with while talking on the apps. With how accessible AI and photo editing filters have become, it is increasingly difficult to tell who exactly someone is online.  

If at any moment you feel uncomfortable, leave, and cut off contact. It’s also always a good idea to let someone know where you’re going, who you’re meeting, and how to contact you, in case of an emergency.  

Are dating apps safe to use?  

For most users, dating apps offer a positive experience. We don’t need to cut down the dating pool by avoiding dating apps, though we do need to be mindful about what information we are putting out online and sharing with others. By following these tips—and trusting your gut—you can help ensure you stay safe as you swipe right. 

About the author
Eric Brynaert

Eric is a Product Marketing Manager with CIRA Cybersecurity Services. His background in digital marketing has led him to appreciate the vital role data plays for Canadian organizations and individuals, and the need to keep it safe. Eric has an MBA in International Business from Sup de Co La Rochelle.