Dating site numbers increase, but so do the fraudsters

Over the years, especially in more recent enlightened and hyper-connected times, cyberspace has joined thousands upon thousands of couples together over the Internet through its myriad dating sites. As thousands of newbies join the world of online dating for the first time every day, it is sad to report that they are joined by a whole new breed of scammers waiting behind beautiful dating site profiles just waiting to alleviate them of any spare change – and a whole lot more – that they happen to have lying about doing nothing in particular.

According to one recent study, by leading online fraud outfit Iovation, the number of instances dating site frau has been detected has risen a huge 150% in line with the popularity of turning to the Internet to find love.

The report goes into some detail of how the fraudsters are operating. The bogus ‘unclaimed inheritance’, whereby the dating site member is asked for a fee to release the cash immediately to them if they are prepared to pose as the ‘only surviving victim’ of an imaginary stash of cash left in a bank vault in Africa is still quite a popular ruse. But people are becoming wise to this type of communiqué. It is the actual credit card information that they are starting to target, now – these large, organised gangs are becoming more savvy. There was a time when, through fear of being traced, they would only ever ask for money to be wired from outside the dating site’s confines, as this was totally untraceable, but now they are, according to the report, becoming more blaze and going for the jackpot, straight off.

To protect dating sites and their membership, webmasters can purchase software from Iovation which shows up bogus and fraudulent transactions using the ReputationManager 360 package. In 2010, 1.4% of transactions on dating sites implementing the program were found to be illegal. The 2011 comparative figure was 3.8% – considering the industry is worth $2bn dollars annually, you get some idea of the amount of actual we are talking about.

The realisation of a standard of minimum security for dating sites will hopefully be enforced one day soon, but for free dating sites, that may just be a bridge too far for their cash-flow. Income from advertising, except in exceptional businesses, very often does not stretch much further than the running costs and a (decent-ish) salary for said webmaster.

If new legislation is passed that means the end of the free dating site but also significantly cuts down on that 3.8% figure, surely the winners will be the online daters themselves and, of course, webmasters who take the security of their clients seriously. Win-win, if ever there was such a case.