Beware these dating scams targeting South Africans this Valentine’s Day – even on Tinder

 ·14 Feb 2023

Cybercriminals are looking to exploit vulnerable individuals this Valentine’s Day, says international cybersecurity company Kaspersky.

According to the group, South Africa’s number of online dating users is expected to increase to 6.3 million by 2027.

This is despite past research by Kaspersky, which found that 35% of people surveyed in South Africa have never used dating apps because they are afraid of scammers.

Kaspersky provided the following examples of scams as well as some tips from experts to stay safe when dating online:


Phishing for dating resources

Kaspersky said you must look out for enigmatic ads and messages that could lure you to a fake dating app or website.

On these fake sites, cybercriminals can steal personal and financial information.

Researchers report intensified scamming activity amid Valentine’s season, with fraudsters extensively creating fake webpages identical to popular dating apps to trick individuals into giving up their sensitive information, said the group.

“The end result can be identity theft, financial fraud, and even extortion. Additionally, the stolen data could even be sold on dark web markets and used for other nefarious activities.”


Fake apps

Malicious malware software can invade a device through files mimicking online dating services.

During the last few months, Kaspersky experts have seen cybercriminals exploiting the names of the most popular dating apps such as Tinder, Badoo, Bumble, Grinder and many others to spread their malicious activity.

“Most often they distribute adware, which bombards users with multiple notifications, but there were also attacks with Trojan Spies, which monitors online activity, and Trojan downloaders, which might install other malicious programs to the victim’s computer,” Kaspersky said.

Below is an example of a fake page mimicking Tinder:


Doxing

Sensitive information gathered through online dating can sometimes lead to doxing.

Doxing refers to uncovering and publicly sharing someone’s personal information. The threat of this can also be used to harm, cyberbully or blackmail a victim.


Catfishing

Not all connections are as genuine as they seem, said Kaspersky.

Numerous spam emails use attractive profiles and fake identities to lure unsuspecting victims into providing personal information or engaging in online communications.

“These emails can spread malware, steal sensitive information, or scam victims out of their money,” added the group.


Stalkerware

Stalkerware is a type of software that can be secretly installed on a device to monitor the user’s online activities and track their location.

According to Kaspersky, 29,312 people worldwide were affected by stalkerware in 2022.

Importantly, not only does the presence of stalkerware mean that a user’s online activity and personal data are vulnerable to being exploited for nefarious intent, but because stalkerware can track a user’s live location, extreme cases and targeted cases online can lead to offline stalking, and this places the user’s safety at risk in the physical world as well.

To best protect oneself from becoming a victim, Kaspersky said that people must use secure connections, be cautious of unsolicited requests and keep personal information private.


Tips

Kaspersky privacy experts shared tips for a safe online dating experience:

  • Verify information: Before meeting someone in person or sharing personal information, verify their identity through their social media profiles, Google search, or other methods. Trust your gut, and don’t hesitate to end communication with someone who seems suspicious or untrustworthy.
  • Use a secure connection: Use a secure and encrypted connection when sharing personal information on online dating platforms to prevent hacking or eavesdropping.
  • Keep passwords secure: Use strong and unique passwords for all online dating accounts, and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
  • Avoid oversharing: Don’t share sensitive information, such as your full name, address, and financial details, until you have built a trusting relationship.
  • Meet in public: When meeting someone in person for the first time, choose a well-lit, public location and let a friend or family member know where you will be.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited requests: Be wary of requests for money or other favours, especially if they seem unreasonable or are made early in the relationship.
  • Report any suspicious activity: If you suspect that you have been a victim of online dating fraud, report it to the authorities and the online dating platform as soon as possible.

Read: Warning over new job scams in South Africa

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