Approximately over half of couples will meet online by the year 2031, while 58% of people would use online dating if they became single in the future. Whilst online dating continues to grow in popularity, we still can’t be 100% confident about who we’re meeting online.
It’s currently too easy for someone to set up a fake profile and pretend to be another person. This makes online dating a target for fraudsters who can create fake profiles to trick innocent people - either for financial gain or simply for the thrill it gives them.
Fraudsters may employ a number of tactics to scam their victims out of money - they might say they work abroad and can’t afford a flight home to see the person or claim someone in their family is ill and they need help paying medical costs. They could secure intimate photos and then blackmail the victim, threatening to share the photos unless they receive money. This last tactic is known as sextortion, and it’s on the rise - with 1 in 10 phishing emails containing blackmail or sextortion attacks.
Last year, Brits lost £41 million to dating scams. The true figures are likely to be higher as many victims may feel too embarrassed to come forward and report the crime.
Existing industry measures
The industry is taking these issues seriously, with a number of measures in place including:
- Moderation and anti-fraud teams
- Anti-scam software
- Fraud detection algorithms
- Dating safety tips
- Phone number verification
- Identity matching with social profiles
- Shared scammer blacklists
But a huge onus still remains on individuals to verify a dating profile is genuine. For instance, some dating websites advise individuals to check someone’s profile against social media accounts, or use online searches to verify the profile picture.
Whilst this can help, dating websites could provide additional trust and safety, such as verifying the identity of individuals when they create an account. This could be mandatory for the most safety focused platforms, or optional, offering individuals the opportunity to verify their details.
How verified identities can help
With a single, digital identity and verified details, the misuse of dating platforms can be quashed. If a dating website asked individuals to share verified details this would prevent fraudsters from creating fake accounts, and daters would have reassurance about who they’re meeting, creating more trust and transparency online.
Truly Madly, one of India’s leading dating apps, lets individuals use a digital identity to share verified details and boost the Trust Score on theirthe profile. This Trust Score is determined on the willingness of the individual to share and verify personal information; so the higher the score, the more confidence other daters have that the profile is genuine.
We need effective online age verification
Verifying the age of daters will be a vital step to help protect young people online, as children as young as eight have been able to create a dating profile; putting them at risk of being groomed by adults. One of the main issues is that current age verification online is flawed - manually entering a date of birth or checking an 18+ tickbox can be falsified by minors.
Effective age verification online isn’t years away, it’s here right now. Social networking site Yubo are already using age estimation technology to flag any accounts where the individual appears to have misstated their age, and using digital identity technology so that individuals can verify their profile. The same technology could be used by dating platforms.
To quote DCI Kirsty Goldsmith – Met Police Cyber Crime Unit,
‘Verified digital identities and age verification are a new tool in the arsenal which can help make online dating safer for adults and protect underage children from accessing explicit content online. I would encourage Online Dating Platforms to explore new tactics and technical options to protect their customers.’
Verified digital identities and age verification can help combat fake profiles, make online dating safer, and protect underage children from accessing explicit content. Given the growing concerns around online safety, it could be a question of when, not if, responsible platforms will implement some level of identity verification.