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Stranger danger! Dating apps strengthen their user protections

Someone said they love you? Or is it your money they love?

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Photo (c) Andrey Popov - Getty Images
Some dating app users are getting added help in keeping creeps where they belong. The Match Group – the parent company of Tinder, Match, Hinge, and Plenty of Fish – is now pushing alerts to its users to tip them off to the common behaviors that could help to identify potential scams. 

Match Group got help from the two sectors that could be of the most benefit – law enforcement and financial exploitation. Even though dating apps have some basic protection under the Communications Decency Act, they run the risk of failing a “duty to inform” if and when the app platform has actual knowledge of dangers. Match Group apparently wants none of that.

More than any other fraud category, Americans have reported losing an incredible $1.3 billion to romance scams in the last five years, at an average clip of $2,400 per victim.

"As a former detective and special agent, I know firsthand how scammers lure unsuspecting individuals into giving personal information and ultimately money – including preying on those looking for love or companionship," said Buddy Loomis, senior director of Law Enforcement Operations and Investigations at Match Group.

"It's the reason we are committed to investing in building the safety tools available to users by leveraging technology and resources that aim to help users protect themselves from the harms in the world around them and make safer connections."

What app users will now see

There’s a litany of protective tips the experts that Match Group brought to the game. In the company’s announcement, it said that the most important add-ons are selfie verification and video chat to send popup messages with safety tips if certain language is detected in conversations between users.

Verification: “Make sure to verify your profile with Photo Verification and also look out for the verification check on your matches to help confirm they are the person in their profile pictures,” Match said. “You can also set up video chats before meeting in person to confirm your match is the person you've been talking to. If your date can't do any of these things, it's a flag.”

Stay on the app: Scammers don’t like staying in one place too long because it could possibly expose them and diminish their chances of scoring a windfall from a victim. To that end, Match experts say that app users should stay on the app as long as possible.

“Scammers will attempt to get you on to another platform quickly which can be a common flag for these types of scams. Stay on the app when getting to know a new connection. If the match wants to move platforms but still DOES NOT want to meet up or video call it is a red flag,” they suggest.

M-O-N-E-Y? Uh, no: Who hasn’t made a bad investment, huh? But, trying to cash in on a promise of a big payday is usually a death knell for any consumer, especially in inflationary times. Match experts say the number one ploy is any love interest who offers crypto or investment advice. And if you get pinged by a potentially enriching Romeo, Match asks that you report those interactions to them. In fact, they suggest doing the same thing no matter what dating app you’re using. Here are some common come-ons and suggested responses:

“I’m stuck and need help”: “I can’t pay my medical bills and they’re going to put me in jail!”

Sorry, Charlie.

“I love you so much I want to meet your family. Can you help me with plane fare to come to America”?

Uh, no.

“My daughter’s car broke down and she can’t get to school to finish her nursing degree. Can you loan me the $500 it’ll take to repair the car?”

Forget it. If a love interest appears desperate and money is involved, this should be a giant red flag.

Requests for money don’t come early in the relationship, either, so be careful.

“Scammers can also play the long game and don't just come out and ask for money when first getting to know someone,” Match’s experts said.

“They often don't start talking about finance until months later after they've gained your trust. As a rule it's best to never send or receive money via a wire transfer, money order, currency exchange, gift card or investment with someone you've never met in person. Not for any reason. Ever."

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