- Tinder will be 10 years old on 12th September
- Online dating scams cost more than $300 million in US £68 million in UK.
- The coronavirus pandemic provided conditions that romance scammers could exploit.
- Call for new Laws to protect against “catfishing”
Tinder, the “world’s most popular dating app” will celebrate its 10th anniversary on 12th September. Several singles who are ready to mingle have used the app in the hope of finding love.
Whilst there may be plenty of fish in the sea beware as some of them are catfish – a predatory fish that scuttles along the bottom of the ocean feeding on smaller or more vulnerable fish. The word has been used to describe people who create fake IDs online and reel in their victims by deceiving and manipulating them. Catfish fool their victims into thinking they are in a relationship and then prey on their victims’ vulnerabilities to create emotional dependency
in order to extract something such as money or emotional pain from them. In 2020 losses to online dating scams in the US were more than $300 million and in the UK £68 million. The actual figures are likely to be far more as victims are reluctant to come forward. The coronavirus pandemic prevented in-person dates and led to people spending more time online – conditions that romance scammers could exploit.
A 2021 survey of more than 2,000 UK adults for BetMinded revealed that 20% of respondents had been catfished, with 38% of 25-34 year-olds admitting they had fallen for a fake profile.
Sweet Bobby, the podcast series, revealed how a London woman in her 30s was conned into a 10 year online relationship with someone pretending to be her boyfriend and the Netflix show The Tinder Swindler documented how various women were scammed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars via the dating app.
Those real-life catfishing documentaries have sparked fresh debate about internet safety laws with many calling for online deception to become a specific criminal offence.
At present catfishing is not an offence in its own right. A Parliamentary review of social media and the law by the Lords Communications Committee in 2014 concluded that sufficient laws were in place to prosecute criminal offences committed over social media. Those include laws against fraud, harassment and malicious
Planned changes to the Online Safety Bill will oblige social media sites and search engines “to stamp out fraudsters and scammers on their platforms”. Under the proposals search engines and platforms which host user-generated content, video-sharing or live streaming will have a duty of care to protect users of their services from fraud committed by other users this should include ‘catfishing’ romance scams.
Love hurts. With online dating scams hearts can be broken and wallets emptied.
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