I have blogged on the topic of online dating in the past, and how it’s not much different than phishing and other forms of online fraud. While it was meant to mock my personal experiences of dating in the 21st century, identity theft is no laughing matter. In the last year, I had my debit card replaced three times due to potential compromise and had to change my password on numerous accounts after several major breaches were reported that put millions of email addresses and passwords at risk.
Almost two years since my first blog on the topic was published, I remain single (note I’m convinced this will be a perpetual state). I have not dated in months, but as part of a personal blogging experience I just started, I decided to set up an online dating profile – not for the intention of meeting anyone, but to see how the dating world has changed in the last six months. Let’s say I was shocked along the way.
I discovered that dating websites are rife with scams. Besides just the standard false representation (i.e., lack of hair, teeth and/or job), women and men both have their own concerns to worry about. For women, it is often a matter of personal safety, but men are highly targeted by the attractive girl who sends a flirty email followed by, “Come visit my website and enter your credit card.” I think most men are educated enough about these scams today that they know to keep the plastic in their wallet.
I lasted a week in my latest online stint (I received 120 emails in my first 12 hours, with an average of 50 – 60 new emails each day thereafter). It is like having another full-time job, and frankly one I have no passion for these days. I did manage to start conversations with a few interesting people, and I was alarmed by how willingly people divulge their personal information, in many cases when I didn’t even ask!! Hence the topic for this blog: social engineering and online dating.
I had well over a dozen emails from men who gave me their name and phone number before hello. If you don’t believe me, see an excerpt of one conversation below.
I had another guy give me his full name and employer within four brief emails – and without my asking. I felt compelled to ultimately give him an education on what I do for a living and why he should not give his information out so readily. Here is an excerpt of that conversation below.
These are just two examples of dozens where men readily handed out their personal information without knowing anything about me besides the few details I put online. In scolding one guy, he replied, “You have a very warm smile and seem like a person I could trust.”
It’s a scary world out there, and I was taken by surprise at how easily people share personal information with someone they don’t know. If a stranger called their house stating they represented a bank, charity or other organization and started asking questions, most people would likely hang up. So why would that same person so willingly provide personal details to a complete stranger on a dating site that they might find interesting or attractive?
It made me realize how easy it would be for cybercriminals to exploit people on these sites and employ social engineering to obtain personal information. In the world of online dating, men and women are leaving themselves vulnerable and need to rethink what personal information they share, how they share it and to whom they share it with.