Online Love Just Got a Little Easier
Yesterday brought a great development for those who fight identity theft. In a joint press release issued by Match.com, eHarmony.com and Spark Networks, the companies announced that they would begin screening for online predators. While many have focused on the fact that this will include screening for sexual predators, we would like to focus on another type of predator they will be working to root out.
It is always heartbreaking when you hear of someone who has had their bank account drained or identity stolen. Sometimes more painful is telling that person that this happened to them because their online love was fake. More and more these days, people are turning to the internet to find their significant others and anywhere there is opportunity for vulnerability, you can believe that an identity thief will be there to exploit that vulnerability.
What begins as an online flirting session turns to something more serious and when promised the undying love of another individual, victims will do things they otherwise would not. This includes wiring money to this new "love", providing banking information or other personal information. Often the thief will say this money is for a sick family member or because they are stuck in a foreign country. Who wouldn't want to help the person who has given them the hope of finding love again, when they are in such dire circumstances?
So you see, it a slippery problem when dealing with this type of thief because the victim is the one who willingly wires the money or provides the information. They only realize that they have become a victim later down the road when their "love" disappears or their bank account is empty. The way to fight this type of online fraud and identity theft is to stop it from occurring in the first place. These dating sites had dealt with this issue in the past by posting a warning in the terms of service that people were supposed to read when they signed up for the site. Needless to say, many people do not read these terms closely, thought you should, and so many who may have avoided becoming victims became just that.
Now, the sites have taken protection of their members to the next level and will begin screening for identity thieves alongside other types of internet predators. They will begin following an outline of preventative techniques which will include a reporting system of the latest financial scams, screening of profiles for possible "clues" that a member is a scammer and the ability to send emails to members about scams that may apply to them. While the system is not a guarantee that members of the sites are safe from online predators, it will help educate users and protect them... and that is a great step in the right direction.
"Online Love Just Got a Little Easier" was written by Nikki Junker. Nikki is the Social Media Coordinator and a Victim Advisor at the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to and linking back to ITRC Blog.