With the growing popularity of online dating sites in the 21st century, the figures of reported online dating frauds are also on the rise, and the problem is growing serious. In the year 2016, Hong Kong police handled 114 cases of online romance fraud involving total losses of $95 million dollars.
Catfishing is the most common type of online dating fraud, which is a deceptive activity where a person creates a sock puppet social networking presence, or fake identity on a social network account. The criminal first creates an attractive profile picture to draw in the victim. Then, he or she would contact and develop relationships with their victim, gaining their affection. Lastly, the criminal would begin to request funds from the victim aiming to defraud them of money.
Although every individual should bear the responsibility of their own actions, the industry of online dating sites is one of the key stakeholders involved in the issue of online dating frauds. The growing popularity of online dating sites is not the prevailing reason leading to the rise of online romance frauds, yet it does create a platform for these crimes to happen. All consumer businesses should bear the responsibility of protecting their customers. Therefore, online dating sites should take up a more active role in combating frauds.
Currently, on the websites of online dating sites, such as Tinder, columns of dating and cyberspace security as well as privacy matters are listed. Reminders are detailed and categorized into user safety in dating relationships, careful cyberspace behaviours and actions in face-to-face datings. Users are reminded not to disclose especially their financial accounts and details to dating partners for monetary transfer. Users shall be alert any situations in the cyberspace and report suspicious users or scenarios to that particular dating site. Scenarios applicable for reporting are well-listed though the link for online reporting is not apparent and well-approached enough.
Reminders are also provided to give reference to users regarding dates initiated from online dating sites into reality. Users are asked to be more familiar with the person before dating out. First dating in public, crowded urban areas is rather preferred to ensure users’ safety. Suggested alternatives include disclosure of their dating plans to friends and relatives, staying alert and mindful.
Yet, putting up general reminders and guidelines on the website has little impact in tackling the problem, since this approach does not target specific cases, and there is no concrete actions or procedures. To combat the rising number of online dating frauds, online dating sites should take up a more active role in protecting their users and provide a safe environment for them.