Scams Abound At Top 10 Dating Sites
Internet security. It’s not something you think about when visiting a dating site like Tinder, Match.com or EHarmony but these are some of the most dangerous sites for a web surfer to visit. Online dating site scams become more and more common. Not only do you have to input a vast amount of personal and personally identifiable information in order to use them in most cases, at one point or another, you will have to give up some credit or bank card information as well. If you actually do hook up with someone you will eventually give up quite a bit of identifiable information and may even come into close physical contact. With that in mind it is easy to imagine at least a few of the risks inherent to this type of website: there is the chance of losing control of your personal information as well as the chance of personal physical injury, theft or worse.
- Loss of information.
Malware and/or hackers could target traffic coming to or leaving a known dating site in order to intercept vital information. The dating site itself could become the target of attack, a breach could lead to the loss of identifying and/or embarrassing information. ISPs, censors or hostile governments could target or monitor traffic looking for visitors in general, or a specific orientation in particular.
- Loss of financial information.
Your information could be lost in transit to the site, could be leaked or lost from the site itself, or gathered in a variety of ways by black hat hackers and marketers.
Black hats could target traffic for the purposes of spreading malware and/or viruses. Traffic could be diverted to clone websites where users willingly download malware to their computers. Oppressive governments, hateful organizations or individuals could embed cookies or tracking technology to geo-locate visitors to sites that meet a certain profile.
Scam artists can set up fake accounts through which to operate. They may “meet” people and begin an “e-relationship” that ends in loss of information, loss of finances or both, or worse. Catfishing is one of the most common scams on the Internet.
- Target of violence.
Hook-up sites that lead members to quick meetings and random liaisons can be used to target people for hate crimes. A form of catfishing, fake users meet their victims online and then lure them to an isolated location.
When logging onto one of the dozens of dating and hook-up sites on the Internet what becomes quickly evident is that many, if not most, of the users on the sites are fake. Scam artists use sophisticated software, called a “robot” or “bot”, to create and operate profiles for the purposes of luring real users to give up their info. To find one all you have to do is create an account and log in, the fake contact requests and private messages will start flooding in and, in some cases, you may even have to upgrade your account to a paid premium service in order to read them. If you’re not sure someone is fake here’s a hint, the messages contain only the simplest and most general types of sentences that could be interpreted in a dozen ways, and get repeated over and over again from message to message.
Symantec reported as recently as summer 2016 there were a minimum of 13 fake or cloned sites perpetrating the same dating site scams; fake verification. Verification is a service offered by a variety of social media and dating outlets but usually reserved for celebrities and other public figures whose profiles might otherwise be met with skepticism. Verification confirms ID and helps eliminate safety concerns which is why it is such a useful lure for scam artists. In general, these scams rely on bots to make contact with real users. They use simple language to initiate conversation and then, once rapport is established, they ask if the user is “verified”. If not, a handy link to a “verification” site takes you to a page where, with a registration and credit card number, you can get verified. What happens next is a charge to the credit card for membership to a XXX streaming webcam for $140 per month.
- Instructions for how to set up fake dating site profiles, ensnare male members and exploit them for money can be obtained on the Dark Web within the multi-layered TOR network. One such scam claims that users can make over $15,000 per month operating full time. The scam targets people who are lonely and craving companionship, people who may be desperate enough to reach out to whatever hand is extended. Ironically, the website goes on to say that most of the people who fall prey to the scam are degenerate porn freaks so what’s the problem with scamming them anyway?
The most successful dating site scams are worked by real people who use fake profiles and take their time to build comprehensive profiles of their target. They do this by asking lots of questions and playing the understanding and interested female, slowly building trust within the relationship. The answers are used to help create the ideal fake woman, once the target starts to fall in love the next phase of the scam can start, the “cashing out” phase. This begins by painting a picture of growing financial hardship. The scammer will mention little things like a car breaking down, rent being due, losing a job and all without ever asking for money, acting as if being poor is new and embarrassing. This goes on until the target is begging to give money and then, after a few small amounts are given, a much larger amount is asked for.
Anyone can fall prey to catfishing scams but there is a preferred demographic: men 40 to 60 years old, who work in tech or financial services, single, possibly living with their parents, have limited conversational skills and are shy/socially awkward. If that sounds like it might be you then heads up, all those half naked hotties blowing up your inbox are fake and out to get you.
Another way to spot fake profiles is the set of pictures that are posted. Watermarks, ultra-high quality or overly staged photos (look like a model or a porn star, duh?) are most likely signs of a fake profile. Black hats can purchase bundles of pictures or even download them directly from Facebook using an image scraper, which makes detection all that much harder, but here’s a trick. You can use the Google Image search function to find if the pictures have been posted elsewhere on the Internet. If they are, and under different names, there is a good chance the profile is fake.
The Top 10 Internet Dating Sites According to the Web
Not all profiles on dating sites are fake. The top sites all do a pretty good job of filtering out the dating site scams but they still miss a few, plus the challenge of beating the system and making some easy money is too great an attraction for some black-hats, so you need to be careful regardless. The good news is that once you get past the thrill of first contact and get a feel for who is bogus and who is real you can have a lot of fun and might even meet someone you really like. Don’t forget that using a VPN for anonymous online identity like Le VPN can help protecting your internet identity, but it cannot protect you from yourself and all the information you share in a chat or in your online profiles. Below you will find a list of the web’s top 10 dating sites:
PlentyOfFish, located at POF.com, is a lesser known but wildly popular dating site. Members can post profiles, meet and chat with each other as well as search and use a feature called “chemistry”. Chemistry uses profile information and a questionnaire to match members based on 5 compatibility criteria. The website gets more than 80 million monthly visits and is ranked 2nd in the category by SimilarWeb.
Match.com has over 35 million active monthly users and an Alexa rank of 500. SimilarWeb gives it a world rank of 421 and a US rank of 123 although both indicators have fallen in recent months. Active users are spending an average of 7.5 minutes on the site and viewing an average 21 pages before exiting. Members can set up a profile using a PC, MAC or mobile device to view, flirt with and meet attractive people. The platform includes a message feature as well.
Zoosk.com has a world ranking of 761 and a US rank of 266, both falling recently, and is listed 6th by SimilarWeb. This site receives about 20 million monthly visits and has one of the lowest bounce rates of the group. In terms of gender/preferences it is one of the more favorable and can be used with mobile, laptop, desktop or tablet.
OKCupid.com is a dating site out to put people together with the intention of falling in love. It gets a SimilarWeb rank of 5 for the category, 482 for the world and 184 for the US, but traffic has been falling. That being said traffic is still strong at just over 50 million visits in the last month alone.
eHarmony.com is one of the most visible and more trusted of the dating sites, with commercials on every TV channel that will carry them. That being said it is not one of the more heavily trafficked sites and comes with a lower ranking than most; 3,808 globally and 1,015 in the US with a SimilarWeb rank of 18. Total monthly visits has been steady around 8 million over the past 6 months, low but you can rest assured that vast majority are not fake.
ChristianMingle.com is a website targeted to a more spiritual and moral crowd, seeking to connect Christians intent on marriage. The site doesn’t get a lot of traffic and has low rankings compared to the other top sites but both traffic and ranking have been on the rise in recent months, and the website is one of the more trustworthy. Global rank is 21,000, US rank is 5,189 and SimilarWeb rank is 84. Total monthly visits is just over 1.5 million.
Datehookup.com is aimed at a more transient crowd who may not be seeking that long-term relationship. The crowd is also a little light here, only 3 million monthly visits, but ranking is decent relative to the group, about 10,000 globally and 2715 in the US which puts them right in the middle of the range.
Farmersonly.com is another high profile dating site with low monthly users, only about 2.5 million. That doesn’t matter though because the site is automatically filtering out a large portion of the population in order to target those who desire a more rural lifestyle. Traffic is mainly from the US, Canada and Australia although there are visits from other locales.
Tinder.com is the app for folks who want to meet for a quick hook-up. The app works in iOS or Android and tracks users in relation to your location. It allows you to swipe pictures until you find one you like, and then like it. If they like you back it’s a match and you can meet up for casual interaction or something a little more saucy. This site gets low ranks on the World, US and SimilarWeb scales but is only available in mobile form so is more limited in audience. Always be careful when using this app and stay in public places until you get to know who you’ve met. Tinder scams can easily lead someone to their doom. You can even find websites with a list of Tinder hacks you can do to help meet more people.
SeniorPeopleMeet.com is a dating site targeted at the older crowd. It connects people over 50 and is partnered with a number of other top sites to provide the most comprehensive listing of its kind. Traffic is on the low side, only about 2.5 million, but ranking is good and on the rise.
Internet Best Practices For Dating Site Scams
When it comes to the Internet and safety you are either your own best friend or your own worst enemy, there’s not much in-between. The Internet is an easy thing to exploit and there are a lot of shady folks out there trying to pull off a dating app scam. As a web-surfer there are a number of methods to help ensure your safety and privacy while using the Internet in general and visiting dating sites in particular. None of which are 100% foolproof but when used together can provide a high level of security for you, your devices and home network comparable to the most sophisticated corporate and government networks.
- Use firewalls.
Firewalls are the first line of defense, they help filter potentially harmful websites and downloads from entering your devices.
- Use malware/antivirus protection.
These handy software packages help prevent known malware from contaminating your device and help filter potential threats as they arise.
- Set up a burner email account.
There are just too many free email services not to use a burner account. This account is the one you want to use when you set up your account with a dating site so that your regular or work account won’t get spammed.
- Use a prepaid card or Bitcoin.
Using a prepaid card, Bitcoin or having a bank account expressly for the purpose of ecommerce is a good idea. This way you can transfer money to it as you need and keep your main accounts insulated from the Internet.
- Use a burner phone.
If you’re going to be contacting people through a dating site you might as well get a burner phone too. They are cheap, they are easy to use and you can toss-it in the trash if it gets hacked, infected or the target of too many scammers.
- Read reviews.
Be sure you are using a trusted site. Only use well-known and respected sites. If you are not sure look for reviews of the site you are interested in, if it is legit other users will have good things to say about it.
- Sign up manually.
Most dating sites will allow you to sign up using Facebook but I don’t recommend it. The sites state clearly that they will never post to your account but they will collect data, and you never know what Facebook will do, their privacy policies leave a lot to be desired and allow for the collection and sharing of all your data across the entire Facebook platform.
- Be wary of catfishing.
Unfortunately, since we are talking about feelings and emotions, it can be difficult to know when this type of scam is happening. Some catfishers are quite skilled at their trade and can come across as the “perfect” person. Best practice: don’t divulge personally identifiable, financial information or money to anyone you meet on the Internet.
VPN, virtual private network, will ensure safe, encrypted connections to help maintain the highest level of Internet privacy and security. This technology comes to us through government and private sector collaboration to provide secure, encrypted connections that are virtually impossible to hack. The added benefit is enhanced anonymity: malware, hackers and/or catfishers will not be able to backtrack your connection to find out where you are. In terms of Internet security, it is the only way to ensure you are not targeted by outside influences and only cost a few dollar a month so why wait, get one now.
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