eHarmony security compromised

For those of you feeling safe and secure in your own little world, convinced that no one would bother hacking a dating site after going after one of the largest business-related social networking sites, think again: eHarmony has announced they’ve fallen victim to the same hacker or hackers that compromised the security of LinkedIn and posted th results on a Russian internet forum.

It was confirmed earlier this week that there was a breach of the online dating site. A ‘small fraction’ of the dating site’s users has been affected, according to eHarmony corporate communications representative, Becky Teraoka, but the number of users that might have been put at risk was not specified – though the website did confirm it had reset the passwords of anyone whose security had been breached.

Truth be told, the hackers didn’t break in and abscond with a bundle of raw passwords but a number of ‘hashes,’ which are versions of the passwords that have been encrypted with a computer algorithm.  However, the passwords can be uncovered with decoding software available to anyone for free, with the only thing standing in between a Russian hacker reading your online dating profile the relative length of your password, as longer ones take more time to crack.

Around 1.5 million of these password hashes were compromised, as they were posted on InsidePro, a password-cracking website hosted in Russia.  The same website is also allegedly responsible for the LinkedIn security breach where anywhere between 5.8 million and 6.5 million hashes were purloined and posted, though business networking site has also announced it was changing passwords and informing its members.

UK dating site may be template for online fraud detection

Existing practises by one UK dating advice site may hold the key to helping Google cut down on the amount of ‘bad actor’ ads it has slipping through its nets every month, specifically in this report, appertaining to human trafficking.

AdWords, probably the most successful online advertising method on the Internet, has been dogged with advertisements for all manner of dodgy products in the past, pharmaceutical aids for improved sexual performance being one of the first categories that spring to mind. A persistent pest they are at least, a scam they are at worst and for the in between, there is little way to prove that the product works or doesn’t and absolutely no way of getting your money back if they categorically don’t.

But that type of nuisance is small fry compared to a much bigger issue being championed once again by NAHVTA’s Philip J. Cenedella. The National Association of Human Trafficking Victim Advocates is calling on Google, even writing to Larry Page directly, to stop all online dating ads that may be a front for human trafficking.

Google, according to one recent report, spends millions every year policing just such practises but, because of the volume, literally billions of ads every year that appear alongside blogs, search engine results and even next to your message in a Gmail inbox (how intrusive is that?) as Adsense advertisements to generate income for the blog-master, it is increasingly difficult to catch ‘em all.

However, Cenedella will not be happy until there is “0.0%” of human trafficking in dating site ads displayed using the AdWords/AdSense medium, however unrealistic that may be. But he’s not afraid of a scrap this one; he’s took on some big names in the virtual and real world in his efforts to stop human trafficking in all its guises. In 2009 it was the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Washington, a year later Craigslist and last year, and still in progress, was a personal battle against Backpage. This year he has turned his attention to take on the huge resources that are cyberspace’s giant organisations and responsible for the majority of adverts we see in our browsers, namely Twitter, Facebook, Google and Bing.

Back to the original example, Google requires all pharmacy ads to go through both manual and algorithmic vetting before being shown – this may be through a third party and certainly draws from the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practise Sites database available in the US. But for online dating, there is no such registrar, at least across The Pond.

In the UK, we have the Association of British Introduction Agencies that allows you to use their site and find a dating site near you that has been run through rigorous checks and must meet exacting standards of Internet safety before it can appear alongside other dating sites that have qualified similarly.

However, there has been some doubt raised about the impracticability of operating such a system on such a large scale. Also, David Evans of OnlineDatingPost.com reveals that these criminals are ‘like quick-silver’. The moment they know you’re onto them, they disband, disappear and come back braver and uglier than ever.

In the meantime, it seems Cenedella will just have to be patient as Google will only bow to the authorities and has been working closely with them already in an attempt to banish such practises. There is no easy solution and, as much as human traffic is associated with dating sites, it is not the biggest problem this industry faces in criminality; whilst fighting to keep fraudsters off our pages is obviously a good thing, finding extra man hours and budget to cope with spurious ads on free dating sites will be huge costs that many webmasters have not budgeted for.

Cenedella makes an absolutely fair point about the dating ads, but, rather than just point the finger, it would be good to hear him come up with a solution. We wait with bated breath.

Online dating bill passed but ducking some responsibility

An interesting piece came up earlier this week about the laws governing online dating. For those of us who have been hanging around dating sites long enough to be given a ticket for it, we know that just because someone comes across as gentile or kind in their profile or sounds cute in their private messages, it doesn’t necessarily mean that what they’re saying’s gonna pass any lie-detector test.

And to be honest, anyone who familiarises themselves with the ‘dating site safety’ pages, for those credible sites that take the time to post them irrespective of whether it’s the law or not, should have a good idea of what not to do, even if they don’t recognise the intent by a fraudulent ne’er-do-well hiding behind a ‘borrowed’ dating site profile.

However, some dating sites’ proclamations of adhering to laws may be misleading, even though the intention is to ensure the prospective member that theirs is a safe haven to look for their one true love online.

In Illinois last week a dating site safety bill (HB4083, if anyone’s collecting bill numbers like train-spotting) passed through the house by a huge 83-26 majority in favour of forcing all dating sites in the state to categorically state on their pages whether or not their members are vetted and background checked. Great – this is an advancement in online security that the dating community has been seeking for some time. But then some bright spark has only gone and spoilt the party!

The bill itself is, in essence, the same one that passed through New Jersey and New York four and two years ago respectively. And some of the more conscientious dating site owners already comply to all the legislation held within the document. For those sites that wish to attract singles who want and expect to do their online thang in 100% assuredness that everything’s kosher, they will have to follow a similar lead.

So, that’s it, then? Sign up, check that the single has been thoroughly checked out and away you go, you’re certain your prospect is safe to date, right? Nuh-uh. Wrong.

The problem, as highlighted by many a US dating review site, is that there is no industry standard as to what is acceptable as a background check. Okay, the dating site may state that a background check has been carried out, but is that just confirming who the prospective single is who they say they are or does it involve a criminal check, which in their own rite vary from state to state?

Or, has there indeed been a criminal check carried out and the single been given a clean bill of health because the registered name doesn’t match one found on any arrest or charge sheet? Let’s face it, if a scammer was going to choose to steal someone’s identity, they’re hardly going to steal one that appeared on Crimewatch UK, are they?

So, yes, we applaud Illinois for stating its intent; all we need now is for a definitive code that constitutes what a verified background check is, and we’ll all be happy bunnies this Easter, won’t we? What will come first – the checking or the egg?

The tell-tale signs of dating scammers – in practise

The second blog I read that made me angry, (if you missed the first, click [here]) even though it was designed for amusement, and described a scenario that those new to dating sites may get embroiled in before they even know it, was from a MrLE to another female dating site user and blogger. Admittedly, she was bored so played along, but the gist of the story, in very broken English from said MrLE, was this…

He opened the conversation (all through private e-mail on the dating site) with “Hello Pretty Lady” – a dead giveaway to someone who is not who they purport to be; read our  Not the language of love article as to why – and it all sort of went downhill from thereon in. MrLE followed that up by describing our blogger, or rather a ‘ladyfriend’ who he supposedly had sitting next to him remarked that, our blogger was “smoking sexy” – I mean, c’mon.

The ‘ladyfriend’, with no voice of her own, strangely enough, wanted to know if our female blogger correspondent was into ladies. Having told MrLE a straight “No!”, it did no good whatsoever; he persisted by questioning the truth of her response, going on to explain that he had placed a bet with his ladyfriend, which he had now lost because he’d wagered that our blogger was not averse to a bit of same-sex female bonding.

This is another skill of the practised scammer, playing on sympathy, trying to get the unsuspecting single to show an Achilles Heel, which they will exploit if you show too much ankle.  Some, like this guy, are pretty obvious, but others can be a lot more subtle.

Despite our blogger’s shorter and shorter answers, MrLE kept on badgering her, even after she had stopped responding completely, using well practised lines to make his scenario seem plausible. In truth, 99.9% was probably fallacy, just a hopeful approach to get another dating site single engaged before entrusting himself to her further, which could have opened the door to heartstrings, purse strings and G strings, over a prolonged period.

MrLE even had the gall to follow up the day after to ask our blogger what sort of day she’d had; although, in all likelihood, he had very little memory of the exact conversation as he would have been on to pastures new the moment she stopped responding.

Needless to say, our seasoned dater was having none of it and gave MrLE short shrift, but I don’t think she realised that this was a genuine attempt by a scammer to engage – I bet he couldn’t believe his luck, at first. You can see from this illustration how someone new to dating would have felt pressured or obliged into keeping the conversation going, maybe even costing the newbie their membership as they abandoned the site in the urgent desire to rid themselves of this persistent nuisance, the likes of whom give the genuine world of online dating such bad press.

I obviously commented on the blog to let her know how lucky she had been and urged her to contact site admin immediately. She was savvy enough to sidestep this attack, but newbies perhaps wouldn’t have been so aware, or at the very least, got totally the wrong impression of online dating.

If you’ve not read the series The Money Pit of Online Fraud, please do so, especially if you’re new to this wonderful world of online dating, which is fun and can open up exhilarating friendships and, as the success stories will tell you, so much more.  Don’t let idiots like MrLE or Santa put you off, just learn the signs and, in the interest of others who may be newer to dating than you are, get site admin to at least check out their credentials and furthermore warn them that their conduct is unacceptable, if you feel you’ve been subjected to unreasonable behaviour.

Why dating sites can leave a sour taste in your mouth

Online dating can be quite disturbing if you’re new to it and you really aren’t sure what to expect after the initial sign-up process. It doesn’t matter how savvy you are at dating in the real world, regular dating site users can spot a chat-room virgin and country mile off.

Take two blogs I’ve read this week, whereupon two seasoned online daters had their eyes opened by two quite separate unexpected requests that had both bloggers bog-eyed at the outrageousness of the content in the questions asked by two people who were, if I may politely put it, chancers. However, read on and I’m sure you’ll think of a whole host of other names for these insidious dating site pests whose interference really does no good whatsoever for the image of online dating.

Sadly, this typifies the actions of irresponsible dating site users who, if their sexual persuasions are of an overtly lewd nature, they really ought to stick to sites that cater for their preferences and not interfere with mainstream singles who may occasionally stray from the straight and narrow with the help of a few chardonnays too many but would certainly keep that level of activity out of the public domain.

The first case in question was on a blog entitled ‘Confessions of a preacher’s daughter’. So, yes, you could guesstimate from the blog name that the young lady blogger was perhaps a little more worldly-wise than some. However, what ended up in her inbox certainly made her eyes water.

There was obviously some previous post history about a bloke that goes by the name of, ooh, let’s just call him Santa for the sake of this post. And because that’s his online dating persona, too.  It appears that he’d been off the radar for a while since our blogger had last blogged about him, but out of the blue she received an invite through her free dating site portal e-mail from said ‘Santa’, asking if she wanted to go to a party.

Knowing him of old, it transpires that she turned him down; however, she did receive a text from him later as he himself was reconsidering attending because of the distance of the party. The fact that it was a double gang-bang party – a point he’d not mentioned when asking said Preacher’s Daughter out on the date earlier – hardly seemed to phase him. Needless to say, being cut from a different cloth, she turned that one down, unreservedly.  You can perhaps see why dating site members of this ilk put serious daters off the online scene and, for the case in question, why Santa only comes once a year and when he does, never fails to empty his sack…

…join me tomorrow when the second tale of woe is much more disturbing – not graphically, as this mini-online dating saga turned out, but something a lot more deceitful, even more of a pestilence on Internet dating than sexual harassment. Yeah, bet you can’t wait; some good lessons in it and well worth the read. Keep in touch with yourself. xxx

When does investigating your potential date become stalking?

Given that it is not yet law for all dating sites to check the history of its membership, how do you check out the past of a potential partner? If, indeed, you do at all. If not, at least according to one report, you are very much in the minority.

Okay, online dating is now a socially acceptable way of meeting your partner. The uninhibited growth of social media and ‘respectable’ branding and advertising campaigns have seen to that. But that doesn’t stop the glorious picture of Heidi, the 22-year old lab assistant from London, turning out to be randy Roger from Reading, does it? As such, almost sixty percent of singles who have been approached to go real life dating via their online platform use other Internet sites to vet their potential partner before agreeing to meet up with them.

Social media platforms used to vet potential partners

Stalking your ex on the facebook is nothing new. Many of us have done it and lived to regret it. You see them on a smiley photo with their new beau, you get too closely acquainted with the ever-faithful Miss S. Artois or favourite Pinot Grigio and end up having a one-night stand with a total minger whose name you instantly forget and all just to ‘show them’ you’re not hurting. Yeah, right, well done! Then you’ve got to rid yourself of said minger – disaster!

However, in the absence of a legal prerequisite, singles on dating sites are doing their own investigating using Google, LinkedIn and facebook to corroborate dating site information before acquiescing a date.

On Jdate, a recent survey of 500 members revealed that, of the six in ten who trawl the ‘Net for added safety, more than a quarter used facebook only and one eighth only Googled their potential beau, but a further 20 percent used a combination of sources, such as the professional network, LinkedIn, thrown in just to be sure.

One word of caution. As much as we condone this type of activity, that first date is your first real chance to get to know the person you’ve met online, once you’ve satisfied yourself that Heidi definitely isn’t randy Roger, perhaps because her moustache is a different colour, I don’t know. But leave some of the mystery to unfold on your date(s). Do not, under any circumstances, over-investigate your subject.

If you sound like you’ve been checking up on them before you’ve met, it will sound like you’ve been checking up on them before you’ve met and you may just come across as slightly unhinged or stalker-ish. All that time and effort in research and you’ve scared them off a second date. So, yes, be sure; but also, leave the door ajar for a little mystery to seep through, a bit at a time, not fling open Pandora’s box like, well, like Pandora did. You may not be able to take it all in at once and still retain all of your noodles.

The reason why dating sites are upping security is clarified

Mm, so there was an ulterior motive behind Match.com’s decision to go down the ‘we will vet all new sign-ups’ route last week, with two other big names from the online dating world. The reason they have taken this bold step, to extricate its membership from the potential harm posed by scammers, fraudsters and sexual deviants, is because Match.com was being taken to court by a woman who was sexually assaulted on a date she went on through using their service.

Not meaning to sound callous, but thank the Almighty it was only a sexual assault and not a fatality – the results could have been a whole lot bleaker for both the victim and the mainstream dating site if the woman, with whom they settled out of court, had met an untimely end at the hands of the sexual predator she began her liaison with on their online dating service.

The case has been ongoing since August last year, the woman believed to hail from LA. After she discovered that the man with whom she’d met and had assaulted her had previous convictions of a sexual nature, she decided to go public with the case. It was at this stage that Match.com decided that they would start to screen membership and has led to their landmark announcement, last week.

The attorney general presiding over the case and who mediated between the parties ‘commended’ the actions of the dating site and insisted that anyone using the Internet for dating should be able to do so without fear that the person with whom they’re communicating is a threat to their welfare.

Summing up, Harris, the afore-mentioned attorney general, strongly advised that all dating sites adopt similar practises in the interests of public safety. It is not just the screening – there will be ways around that. Therefore there will now be reporting systems so that anyone subjected to an ordeal at the hands of a fellow dating site member can instantly report their conduct in the hope that action will be taken at whatever level is deemed fit. At the very least, this will incur being stricken from the online dating membership role for the perpetrator.

As is the law in several US states, the dating sites that have signed up for this extra monitoring will also lead the way in the public dating safety notices it posts on its pages. They must be clear and accessible at all times.

From the law’s perspective, Harris, who set up an eCrime department last year to deal with identity theft will allocate a liaison solely to the safety, monitoring and follow-up of any reported miscreants on dating sites. This offer will be extended to any other sites that adopt the same protocol for their business.

There’s a long way to go, but if the big names are seen to be putting in that much of a concerted effort with their volumes, let’s hope many more follow suit and soon.

New online dating treaty may raise core product value

We’ve long been advocates of dating site safety being a matter of course, not choice, here on dating.org.uk/category/online-dating-security. At last, it would seem that the law courts in California have put their feet down in a statement that categorically states security on dating sites should guarantee membership safety from scammers or individual targeting from fraudsters who are not who they purport to be or have a hidden past that they are choosing to leave out of their dating site profile.

It has often been thought that, if the top mainstream dating sites tow the line with their vast membership, then the others – that can afford to do so*- will follow suit. Instantly signing up to put online daters safety first are Spark, eHarmony and Match, who have vowed to begin screening for scammers, identity theft and predators of a sexual nature.

However, this is not a law that has been passed, but an official declaration through a recognised lawful body that the three dating sites will do whatever they can within their power to make their dating sites safer places for all members. It is hoped, and suspected, that other online dating platforms will go to the same lengths to protect their membership, but many may not have the budget for the man hours or the software to make this Utopian sector of cyberspace a reality.

Does this treaty signal the end of the free dating site?

*The three initial treaty dating sites to this endeavour sit right on the top branches of the online dating tree. They do make millions of pounds every year and can throw mega-bucks at the venture to ensure it is pulled off. And no doubt they will – it will be money better spent than on any marketing campaign that their sales and scientists could ever have dreamed up.

There are thousands upon thousands of horror stories every year where gullible singles have entrusted small fortunes to scammers disguised as genuine love interests with ‘believable’ plights. For those who have been burnt in the past but want to continue looking for love online, they will jump at the opportunity to sign up to a totally secure dating environment.

This will see free dating sites, who rely on advertising only for sponsorship, struggle to uphold any guarantees it makes and see online lovers leave in their droves to the protective umbrella of the three dating sites who have signed up to look after their respective memberships, plus the many who are expected to follow with similar credible promises.

it wouldn’t surprise this dating correspondent to see membership fees rise as a result of this extra safeguard. All of a sudden, the law has handed the online dating market a tool to promote its core product, hence commanding a bigger price in the market. Yes, you may feel safer, but just be sure that it’s not your dating site that ends up legally fleecing you, instead of a bogus profile created somewhere in deepest Africa.

Illinois considers mandatory dating site check-ups

For a long time here on dating.org.uk, we have supported calls for a minimum regulatory standard for background checks on all new dating site sign-ups around the globe.

According to one recent survey, three people out of every ten who browse the Internet are members of one online dating facility or another. This is causing major concerns for politicians and security bureaus who are in charge of tracking down online fraudsters. The organised gangs behind online scamming, adept at hiding beyond dating site profiles, are growing in number in relation to the increased numbers of singles flocking to personals sites; many states are now moving to ensure a minimum regulation on dating sites exists to protect its unsuspecting membership from their criminal activities.

Illinois is the latest US state considering passing a bill that enforces dating sites to disclose whether or not they run any security checks on its membership. This could include any number of criminal activities that potential sign-ups may have been involved in over the years being displayed alongside their dating profile so that other singles are fully aware of who it is they may be opening up an online relationship with.

It will not be the first US state to adopt such stringent regulatory procedures, with Texas and New Jersey already administering such programs; New York, possibly the capital of online dating, categorically insists that registered dating sites within its boundaries have a clear checklist of dating safety tips that are accessible and clearly understandable to ensure browsing is undertaken with complete peace of mind.

With recent activities across cyberspace – and the offline world – showing concerns for how much politics and the authorities are restricting online freedoms, the Springfield House is concerned not to be seen as a Big Brother authoritarian, however, it acknowledges its responsibilities to its citizens and as such, the House Consumer Protection Committee have passed the bill for further deliberation in The House, proper.

Whilst the bill awaits approval, State Rep. Michelle Mussman has reminded all Illinoisans that anyone can access the online sex offender or murderer databases available to the public. That may well protect the offline activities of online dating members, but, until mandatory checks are set in stone for all, scammers will still be able to operate, picking off vulnerable singles for their money and ruining what should be one of the most joyous activities of modern day living.

Stick within your league for best dating site results

If you’re new to online dating, you may be apprehensive about sharing some of your personal information due to the hairy stories that make their way into the media. These reports can be from everything to the guy turning out to be a sex offender, the woman demanding money to even get to the first date or your potential partner singing Brotherhood of Man songs all the way through the date. All scary enough in their own rite, it’s true.

But before you get to that meeting up stage, there is plenty of other critical information you need to know about the entities that patrol dating sites under the guise of genuine singles looking for love online, whereas all they are really after is your money and they have developed some ingenious ways of doing it.

Even the most steadfast of singles get caught up in a fantasy web spun by these (generally) organised criminal gangs. But if you know beforehand what you’re looking out for, the telltale signs that you’re being approached by a scammer will stand out like a sore thumb.

Getting the best out of your online dating experience is all about being honest with yourself, not setting your expectations, not getting carried away by trying to impress another single who has caught your eye by pretending to be someone you’re not and, at all times, keep things in perspective by being totally honest with yourself and with anyone who shows interest in you. But not too much heavy personal stuff, at first – that type of information will have everyone on the dating site running for cover. Remember, many dating sites have seven-figure memberships: you are not the be all and all – there are thousands of others members that a single can move on to if you either come on too heavy or do not act within the parameters of dating site etiquette.

That said, you have a vague idea of who is in your league, if you go on the ‘like attract like’ unwritten rule. So if an absolutely stunning blonde of Scandinavian origin or chisel-chinned hunk with bulging biceps approaches you and you are by no means expecting to be contacted by someone of that calibre, start asking yourself: why? Not being funny, there is a 99.9% chance that the photo is not that of the person getting in touch, no matter how much they protest that they are Erika or Brad, rather, the image has been lifted from elsewhere, possibly even another dating site, on t’Internet and there’s an African national hiding behind the dating site profile with a rod and some heavy gauge line just waiting to reel you in.

Another giveaway is the opening line when someone new contacts you for the first time. It won’t open with a coy ‘Hi, there, I was wondering…’ or a ‘Just happened to see your profile…’. It will go straight for the jugular in ill-conceived English. The fraudster will open up with ‘My most beautiful darling,’ or ‘My most gorgeous sweetheart,’. All true enough sentiment when you’ve known someone for a while but, due to the foreign national’s lack of understanding of etiquette – they’ve probably lifted the text from a well-thumbed Mills & Boon – they make this fatal error (if you know to look out for it) upon first contact.

Stick with us; more over the weekend about what to look out for – and, more importantly, to report to the webmaster – to weed out the scammers from the genuine single looking to find you via the medium of online dating.

Why are all the good looking ones always fakers?

In the last article we looked at dating sites’ unwillingness to take the law into their own hands and force their members to undergo identity verification, even though they know it’s the right thing. We also read how Kevin Connell from DateProtection.com is urging the public to force the issue and back his war cry. We are asking everyone who uses UK dating sites to take the matter in their own hands and get into the habit of doing so; here’s how, and the secret figures Kevin has revealed about the extent of scamming across dating land.

For the UK dating sites, we have the facility of asking our online partners to obtain an online passport through Trusted Faces / the Post Office®. A simplistic solution, whereby one creates an account with trusted faces, goes in person to the Post Office® to have their real face verified against the permanent photo they post on their Trusted Faces site and confirm the registration.  Job done.

Assuming that your dating site profile photograph looks something like your Trusted Faces photo, you can issue the interested party with a one-off ‘ticket’ to view the PO verified pic to end any argument. There is no worry about that interested party passing the ticket on to others as it expires once it has been used.

You may think that this is all a bit of a palaver and that there are not enough shady characters hiding beyond pictures of (always) beautiful people whose identity they have stolen from somewhere on the internet to bother. The following dating site secrets revealed by Kevin Connell may make you think otherwise:

1. Ten percent, statistically, of sex offenders use dating sites to source their victims; similarly, ten percent of all dating site profiles have been created by such a deviant.
2. Continuing with the ten percent theme, that’s the figure attributed to genuine, honest dating site profiles; nine out of ten people lie from everything from their physical make up to their criminal past.
3. Even as an option, rather than a compulsory measure, dating site owners are unwilling to insert a background check identification procedure, although there are many available. Membership numbers mean so much that they would rather jeopardise all of them than risk putting off a few by putting them through this extra, essential process.  We had one guy, John Syms, comment on our Online passport article stating that if these measures were implemented, he would use dating sites – I’m sure many more would feel the same and surpass the volumes choosing not to sign up because of the extra step!

There are millions of false dating profiles spattered across dating land, created by people who do not want their true identity revealed for a whole host of reasons, some legal, most not.

Laws that are in place are weak and are easily navigable by a determined criminal. Dating sites are fantastic places to meet people, to which hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers will testify. Just make sure when you meet your perfect partner online, they are indeed who they say they are.

FBI issue US Valentine warning for date protection act

The extent of seriousness to which scamming on dating sites is now being taken has become evident from the US as it has emerged that the Federal Bureau of Investigations issued a warning on Valentine’s Day for public protection on exactly this matter.

The US criminal department’s cause for concern comes off the back of recent findings concerning the amount of fraudulent dating site profiles currently populating the world’s cyberspace chat rooms, forums and dating sites – the figures are just, well, scary. Yet still dating sites the world over, who have full exposure to the extent that scammers, perverts and sexual deviants are posing as decent love seekers, are just not willing to provide 100% full identity and background checks for its existing membership and new sign-ups in case it prevents genuine people looking for love online from registering to use their facilities.

Dateprotection.com is a website that fronts an organisation calling for greater online dating security on a global scale, headed up by its founder, Kevin Connell. His comments are constantly drowned out by the industry’s big game players and he, like the FBI, is calling for change on a grand scale that only the public can effect, as government authorities are either unable or unwilling to intervene.

The concept that Kevin is trying to get dating sites to accept is that all members have a right to be assured that the person they’re chatting with is genuine or at least provide an onsite means of allowing one of its members to verify any potential partner’s true identity themselves.

Currently, there are very few states in the US – the two ‘New’s – York and Jersey – that have any laws governing background checks for dating sites, although Connecticut and Illinois have also passed bills regulating them. The former only extend to paid facilities and they are not the most rigorous, asking only of the dating site owner to inform their members if they carry out criminal checks (not that they have to); in New York, there is the additional safeguard that online dating facilities must issue guidelines, many of which fall under the heading: ‘common sense’, advising its members of what to look out for and things not to do when actually meeting up offline someone they have met on site.

Singles should not feel pressurised into meeting anyone on their dating site who will not take appropriate lengths to independently verify their identification. As market leaders, Match.com and eHarmony have categorically stated that all of their membership undergo sex crime conviction checks. However, that test does not actually prove that the individual they are running the check on is the person who has actually signed up to the dating site.

Kevin Connell has revealed several secrets about the scale and industry insider knowledge of the scale of scam profiles; we will present them in our next article, along with what UK dating site members can do if they fancy someone on their site, but are unsure of their integrity.

Sorry, have I seen your face before? You look familiar…

In our previous article, we were informed about the fact that dating sites hold on to your account details in case we choose to reinstate our account, possibly for an indefinite period and that facebook retain our details for two and a half years.

The provider of that information, Rainey Reitman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, also suggests that photographs we upload to our dating site or social media platform may be given an indefinite home on servers external to that of the website we have made our online dating home. This all makes it so much easier for social media sites to build up a picture of you even if you have just browsed their site. If they have your IP address from your visit and that information is stored in a deleted account somewhere in dating cyberspace, they already know a lot more about you when you sign up than you think they do, even if you’ve only clicked through and looked at one photograph of a potential partner in the past.

As promised, Mr Reitman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has provided some key information about how you can avoid this anonymous detection or, if the dating site is not that sophisticated, you can throw them a few less-advanced curveballs to put them off your scent.

As when they teach you internet marketing, sign up for a free e-mail address in the pseudonym which you’ll use to join your dating site and use it only for that purpose. When you’re done with the dating site, bin the e-mail account.

Never give the site your personal information unless you absolutely have to. This includes your name (the real one) and most definitely any credit or debit card information. You may not have information where this is stored, even after you close your account.

If you can stretch to it or find a free one, use a VPN (virtual private network). These are not bad services and often run a broadband service cheaper than you’d get through a telephone line rental company. What effect that gives you is, even though you log on as normal, it diverts all communication in a very real time manner through their network and IP address so that the dating site’s servers cannot trace your IP to you. Clever stuff.

Other advice, from Help Net Security, touches on your dating site profile photo, or galleries. If the photo of you has been tagged, there is an excellent chance that the image will be stored on an external server in perpetuity. There are services that allow you to search for an image online anywhere, such as tin-eye. When signing up under a pseudonym, either scan to see if a previous picture of you is stored anywhere online or upload a brand new one and attach it to your alter-ego’s profile under its name!

And lastly, before you sign up to a dating site, if keeping your real name discreet is a must, check out the sites t’s & c’s. They should disclose if they make any of your information, including the photo, searchable to the crawlers of the biggest engines, giving you (and them, of course) maximum coverage. If you do not want to be widely known as using a dating site that uses this facility, then either sign up following the guidelines above for anonymity or do not sign up at all.

And if you leave a bad comment on dating.org.uk about today’s articles, trust me when I say, I know who you are and I will come and find you! (joke)

Grindr hacked, sensitive men’s bits slipped into wrong hands

If you’ve followed dating.org.uk‘s ‘news’ for some time, you’ll know that we’re hot on dating site security. If there’s a new app or extension we learn about, we try to let you know about it as soon as we do.

So when we saw this latest post about a breach of dating site security, we naturally checked it out. However, we were quite surprised when we comprehended the nature and depth of this particular security breach; it wasn’t directly another story of woe about an innocent victim who’d been taken in by a false dating site profile purporting to be a genuine love seeker and given them their life savings.

This breach of security was on a much larger scale and targeted a dating app rather than an online dating site. And we’re not just talking one or two people – according to one recent report, 100,000 users on gay dating site Grindr not only had their dating profile hacked by one unscrupulous individual but also then had the indignity of the identity thief pretend to be them on the dating site.

This is the second such report of dating site hacking on a large scale this year. Grindr is specifically for gay gentlemen who can download the app on their Smartphone and be notified when another subscriber to the service is in the vicinity. A little bit like a booster to their inherent gaydar, if you like.

As well as any financial information the hacker may have had access to, the hacker was able to see all of their tagged ‘favourites’, update, delete and amend details of their dating profile and user photo, chat to other members pretending to be the registered member as well as seeing who’d been sending them what photos and actually impersonate their favourite and hold a conversation with them.

Needless to say, Grindr got to work on their security system as the amount of damaging information that was accessed – well, in the wrong hands personal chats, photos and adventures into the land of promiscuity could be lethal if it belonged to an authoritative figure. A mandatory update was issued, after the Sydney Morning Herald interviewed an anonymous dating site security expert who revealed that Grindr – and its lesbian/heterosexual offshoot Blendr – had hardly any security whatsoever. As such, it was no surprise that such large scale penetration was easy on the gay site. Ooh, err.

The other dating site to recently have had its security breached was Tuff Scruff, a site ran by the fairer sex on Tumblr (has evryone forgotten their e’s?) who like a bit of fluff around their men’s chins. After being hacked, the ladies logged on to find that photos of their facially-haired fancy-men had been switched for women revealing bearded clams, rather than the bearded faces of their dreamboats.

No security system is 100% safe. If you want to keep your dating life online completely separate from the real you, we have some excellent advice coming next from around the world of online security that you can impart on your dating site, or for any other online persona you wish to create.

Steps to avoid being scammed dating online

Despite the spiralling popularity of dating sites members of the public have guarded reservations about using a platform that a whole generation is growing up taking for granted. As schools, community programs and day care centres develop blogs, websites and Twitter and Facebook accounts, the days when the world of online dating was recalled with a sliver of ice tingling the spine will be just that, a distant memory.

Yet, despite a worldwide effort to increase dating site security, we cannot ignore the fact that fraud and scammers perpetuate the myth that dating sites are unsafe places to frequent, let alone consider meeting someone with whom you’d consider sharing the rest of your life.

If you’re new to the world of online dating, you are probably more vulnerable than seasoned Internet love seekers. Scammers instantly target new sign ups and in their desperation to at least start the ball rolling, the new sign up replies to that initial prompt.

After a period whereby the scammer gains the trust of the ‘newbie’, there will inevitably come the promise of a visit ‘if only they had the funds‘ or ‘a relative has been taken sick and they’re waiting for the insurance to clear’ or ‘there’s a [magical investment], but they (the scammer) need funds to see the reward come to fruition‘. All plights seem like humanitarian gifts of kindness or opportunities too good to pass up on behalf of the innocent dating site member. But if you loan the money, that’s the last you’ll ever see of it.

One recent report suggests the following ways to ensure you stay safe if you’re considering dipping a toe into the world of online dating:

Do not be tempted to open up lines of communication outside the domain of the dating site. Most dating sites offer enough ways to communicate in the early stages of a relationship to enable the member to assess whether there’s a future in the relationship. Do not give out your phone number or e-mail address until you have met the person who’s contacted you.

This article continues with further ways to protect yourself dating online and a quick tale of an e-mail I had only this month as soon as I joined what appeared, on the face of it, to be a professional networking site for writers, publishers and editors.  And I mean, this e-mail was waiting in my inbox before I’d even sent the confirmation that the e-mail I’d supplied was legit.  Scary.

Continue reading: Don’t let your guard down online dating