Thousands of couples have met and married because of online dating. They all happily ended up together, but it’s relatively rare that things work out this way. Most of the time, the person you meet online won’t look like themselves when they meet you in person. There are plenty of horror stories out there that one should not ignore and should probably be aware of before jumping into the online dating pool.
To understand the topic better and to help users protect themselves when they are dating online, here are the dangers you’re exposed to if you try online dating.
Online Dating: Just How Dangerous Is It Now?
But first, numbers. The Statistic Brain Research Institute reports that more than 49.7 million Americans have tried online dating, and that’s not far off from how many single people there are in the US, which is 54.4 million. A survey by Statista, an online statistics, market research, and business intelligence portal, revealed that 24% of people use dating sites to find hookups, 43% to find friends, and 84% to find relationships. In terms of gender breakdown, Statistic Brain found that more than half of online daters are men, while less than half are women. Other studies by GlobalWebIndex and the Pew Research Center had similar results: 62% of dating app users are men, and 13% of American men had used a dating app or site vs. only 9% of American women.
Now judging from those findings, here are the risks you should watch out for when signing up in a dating site.
Half of all online daters lie on their dating profiles.
Popular dating site eHarmony conducted some online dating research of its own, and its shocking findings state that 53% of people lie on their dating profile. Even small exaggerations count as lies, people! Some of the most common lies happen when people are talking about their height, weight, lifestyle, age, income, and current relationship status. Men tend to lie about their job and/or how much money they make, while women tend to lie about how old they are. In fact, 20% of women have used a photo from when they were younger, and 40% of men lied about their position at work and/or income to sound more successful. Studies show that some users are aware that others are lying in dating sites. In an article in the US magazine Scientific American, 54% of online daters said they’ve seen a profile in which they thought the person was presenting false information.
At least 10% of profiles are fake.
Business Insider reports that 10% of accounts on dating sites are fake. In fact, one dating site, SeekingArrangement.com, deletes over 600 fake accounts every day.This brings up a good point. Some free dating services are less trustworthy than the ones you have to pay for because anyone can join. That means bots and scammers won’t have any barrier to entry.
After reviewing 60,000 banned profiles to see what they have in common, background-screening company TC LogiQ found that 28% were based in Nigeria, 23% in the Ukraine, and 21% in the Philippines. Typically, fake profiles provide few photos, and in many cases only have one photo. Fake profiles also tend to leave About Me sections and other details blank. Users who immediately ask for your photos, or who are very forward and extremely flirtatious, also can be a sign that the profile is fake. One of the most common occupations used on fake dating profiles is self-employment.
Online dating scams steal your heart to steal your money.
Cyber scammers are increasingly using online dating websites to lie and steal their way into wealth. In 2016, there were almost 15,000 complaints of romance scams reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (nearly 2,500 more than in 2015). The Internet Crime Complaint Center said scammers often “use poetry, flowers, and other gifts to reel in victims, while declaring ‘undying love.’”
A 65-year-old Mumbai resident lost all his savings, including post-retirement funds. in a dating website fraud where he registered himself to date women for a year. After registering on the site and being asked to pay a registration fee to enroll as a premium member, he was shown a few women and given a ‘dating package.’ The woman in question kept asking for more payments on different pretexts such as insurance, police verification, and more. When he came across user reviews online about the site being a scam, he tried canceling his membership to get a refund. It didn’t happen.
Online predators commit thousands of abductions, murders, and rapes each year.
Thousands of abductions and rapes and hundreds of murders are committed because of online dating sites, like this one.In the U.K., the number of sexual assault crimes that have been linked to online dating has increased by over 450% in the previous six years, as per an ongoing report by the U.K’s National Crime Agency (NCA). The potential dangers of online dating have come into sharp focus following the case of Jason Lawrence, who raped five women and attacked two more after meeting them on Match.com. Here are a couple more related cases:
- In 2017, two Muskegon men raped multiple women in 2013. They lured most of the women through online dating platforms and social media sites.
- There have been three reported cases of sexual assault by people who had met on an online dating platform on Wayne State University’s campus since the beginning of the fall 2017 semester. Two of these involved the use of Tinder and one involved Plenty of Fish, said Wayne State University Police Lt. David Scott.
If you suspect someone is behaving illegally, report them to the dating site or app you’re using, notify your local police, and/or file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Of course, the punishment for these crimes (which usually vary by state) are more severe than for those who commit an online dating scam involving money.
Delinquents use dating sites.
According to Phactual, one in 10 sex offenders is on a dating site to meet new people, while 25% of rapists use online dating to find their victims. In addition, according to the Independent, 3% of online daters are considered psychopaths. You can refer to the National Sex Offender public website’s sex offender registry to see if your match is one of them. But then again, people lie on dating sites, so these felons are probably using a fake picture and a fake name to make it hard for you to know. It’s important to exercise caution when you meet new people online as some are simply looking for sex. Young girls and single moms are usually the unsuspecting victims of common scam as people with bad intentions easily gain trust from them.
More than half of users are already in a relationship.
We’ve already mentioned about 50% of users lying on their profiles. Well, this article reports that 62% of online daters are already in a relationship or married (51% vs. 11%, respectively) and are therefore likely looking for singles they can cheat with. On Tinder specifically, 42% of users currently have a partner (30% are married, and 12% are in a relationship).
Jon Millward recently conducted a monthlong experiment to determine “how people respond to different relationships online.” He created 40 fake profiles, composed of both men and women, on OkCupid. He split the profiles into four categories: singles, recently taken, married maybes, and brazen cheats. After a month, the cheaters received the most messages. Cheating women received the most messages (988) from men interested in helping them cheat. Women listed as “married maybes” received 355 messages, again from men wanting to help them cheat.
One in four users have experienced harassment online.
Referring back to the Scientific American study, 1 in 4 people said they had been IM’d or messaged by someone on a dating site who made them feel uncomfortable or harassed. Another research conducted in 2013 by the Pew Research Centre found that 28% of online daters have felt harassed on online dating sites, and that is only from the people who reported it. Of these people, 43% were women and 17% were men. Perhaps it was by someone they rejected, perhaps it was someone sending an unsolicited photo, or perhaps it was someone asking for money.
In Australia, a 2015 survey of 3,000 Australians by RMIT and La Trobe universities found that while overall men and women were just as likely to report experiencing digital harassment and abuse, women reported higher levels of sexual harassment. It also found that women “overwhelmingly” experienced harassment from men, while men received it equally from males and females.
The Bottom Line
Looking for love online isn’t entirely bad. In fact, Statistic Brain says 20% of current relationships began online. Of all the couples who married within the last year, 17% of them met on a dating site. Furthermore, couples who met on a dating site or app may have more fulfilling marriages than those who didn’t. This is according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012.
Like any form of dating in real life, meeting up with strangers online is never safe. So if you’re going to do it, be smart and exercise caution.