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Online Dating Privacy and Safety

“When we started Optery, we thought about all the reasons why people wanted to protect their information and remove it from the web. And the places that we started with was things like preventing identity theft, preventing fraud, preventing phishing attacks, preventing doxing.And to be honest, I never considered that we would be helping people with their online dating activities.

Lawrence Gentilello – CEO & Founder, Optery

Dating Sites and Your Privacy:

In 2018, the Pew Research Center published a survey of American adults regarding online dating and privacy. The survey found that over one-third of online daters( 38%) had personally experienced a privacy violation such as having someone share their personal information or having someone lie about their age or identity. On the other hand, only 12% of online daters reported ever receiving a message they found offensive or inappropriate. The same survey also found that younger adults were more likely to share personal information and messages with strangers than older adults. For example, one in three people between the ages of 18 and 24 shared their location with someone they had just met on a dating site or app, compared to only 15% of people between the ages of 35 and 49. Additionally, roughly half( 48%) of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 reported sharing their email address with someone they had just met on a dating site or app, compared to 17% of people between the ages of 35 and 49. Another survey conducted by Online Dating Magazine found that 90% of respondents were concerned about cyber safety when using online dating apps. They also found that 40% of respondents had either been asked for money or had money stolen from them by someone they met online. As a result, many online daters are taking extra precautions to protect their information online.

Source: Pew Research Center

How To Protect Yourself When Using Dating Sites?

Online dating is a convenient way to meet new people. There are many benefits to online dating, including the fact that you can do it from the comfort of your own home. However, there are also some risks to using dating sites, including the fact that some of these sites do not take their users’ privacy seriously. If you are using a dating site, there are several steps that you can take to protect yourself when using dating sites.

  • Use a service like Optery to do a Free Scan. Your Exposure Report shows you where your personal information is being sold online. Bad actors can use this information against you in “Romance Scams”.
  • Do not use a Credit Card to sign up for a Dating App unless you absolutely have to. Instead, try paying with a gift card or another method of payment that does not require your personal information. This will help protect you if the site is hacked or compromised in any way.
  • Make sure that you read the terms and conditions when you sign up for an account with any website. If the terms and conditions include anything about advertising, marketing or selling your information to third parties, then do not sign up for an account with that site.
  • When signing up for an account with any website, including online dating sites, make sure that all of the information that is being collected is absolutely necessary. Do not provide more information than what is required.
  • If you are thinking about meeting someone in person, then meet them in a public place first. If anything does seem off about this person, then do not meet them in person.
  • Let a friend or family member know where you’re going when meeting in person. 
  • You should also be aware of the fact that criminals often use online dating sites to find victims so be sure to stay safe!
  • More tips and suggestions from FBI.gov – https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/romance-scams

Transcript:

00;00;00;04 – 00;00;13;1
Lawrence
You could think, “Okay, I’m trying to get to know somebody in this dating app” and Boom. “Whoa. I just got a text message from them. I haven’t given them the number. How did they get my cell phone number?”
 
00;00;18;05 – 00;00;46;1
Lawrence
When we started Optery, we thought about all the reasons why people wanted to protect their information and remove it from the web. And the places that we started with was things like preventing identity theft, preventing fraud, preventing phishing attacks, preventing doxing. And to be honest, I never considered that we would be helping people with their online dating activities.
 
00;00;46;11 – 00;01;13;1
Lawrence
At Optery, we have a chat bot and a help desk where we’re having a lot of interactions and a lot of conversations with our customers, and they’re often telling us what’s going on in their personal lives and why it is that they have signed up for Optery to protect their privacy. And oftentimes there’s horror stories that I’ve got a stalker or I was a victim of identity theft or somebody doxing me or somebody trying to extort me.
 
00;01;13;17 – 00;01;33;0
Lawrence
We get this a lot surprising, the lives, very sad. And it’s very scary that someone is trying to extort me and I’m trying to hide from this person. But after we started, Optery what was surprising is we were getting messages from people saying, “Hey, I do online dating. And the thing that I’m most concerned with is I don’t want my age out there.”
 
00;01;33;10 – 00;01;59;1
Lawrence
“When somebody sees my profile, they don’t know my exact age. And that’s something that I’m not comfortable with, with making known to my prospective partners in the online dating apps that I used”. Or it was like, “Hey, I’m recently single. I’ve been in a relationship for a long time and now I’ve reentered the dating world and I’m a little bit scared, I’m a little bit hesitant, I’m a little bit cautious.”
 
00;01;59;17 – 00;02;15;0
Lawrence
“I’m optimistic that I’m going to meet somebody great, but I don’t want somebody to just very quickly and easily be able to look up my name or do a reverse look up on my phone number.”
 
00;02;15;05 – 00;02;51;0
Heather
When you start online dating, hopefully the site that you’re on gives you a handle or a different name to use, and you have choices as to how much information that you can reveal on those sites. Hopefully, it’s anonymous enough that you’re able to participate in online dating that you want without revealing enough of yourself that somebody who maybe has an interest in you but you don’t necessarily have an interest in them won’t be able to look up parts of your profile in a data broker site and potentially find out where you live.
 
00;02;51;12 – 00;03;03;1
Heather
Maybe they could they might stop by unannounced. They can find out where your place of business is, what your phone number is. Start calling you and giving you unwanted attention.
 
00;03;03;22 – 00;03;25;1
Lawrence
What we know at Optery is, it only takes a few pieces of information to find out exactly who someone is. So at Optery, when somebody signs up, we ask for a little more information than your typical online service. What we ask for as a requirement to have an Optery account, your first and last name, your city and state, and your year of birth.
 
00;03;26;02 – 00;03;43;2
Lawrence
And it turns out if you have those five pieces of information with a very, very high degree of accuracy, you can find who you are online. If you just have a first and last name. You know, there’s a lot of people out there that have the same name, but if you add in their city and state, you really start to narrow it down.
 
00;03;44;05 – 00;04;21;2
Lawrence
And if you add in their your birth, you narrow it down very, very closely where you can find people at a very high confidence. Most of the online dating apps are not going to reveal someone’s full name or phone number. I think you probably reveal like a first name or a first initial or maybe like a handle. But let’s say that you go on that date or you start interacting with somebody via chat, that you’re going to start revealing information about yourself. Like, let’s say, where you work. Like, “Where do you work?” you know. Now you have someone’s first name and where they work.
 
00;04;21;22 – 00;04;41;2
Lawrence
You could, you could Google their name and you could Google that company. And maybe you’ve got another piece of identifying personal, like where they went to college. So now, you know, you have this conversation like, “Well, where did you go to college or where did you go to high school or where do you work?” And some of that information starts to kind of come out as you’re as you’re getting to know somebody.
 
00;04;42;09 – 00;04;57;1
Lawrence
And in the background, that person could start doing Web searches that says, “Okay, now I’ve got the first name I’ve got where they went to college and I’ve got where they work. Bingo. I’ve got a LinkedIn profile or I’ve got a Facebook profile. Now I know their full name. Okay, so now I know their full name.”
 
00;04;57;24 – 00;05;32;0
Lawrence
“Now I can go back to a search engine and type in the full name and the word address. And now I can see these people search sites that are posting up their full name, their address, their phone number and their siblings names. And oh, I just found out that they have an estimated net worth of this and an estimated annual income of this. And they just voted Republican or Democrat in the last election.”
 
00;05;32;05 – 00;05;51;1
Lawrence
When people are engaged in online dating, I think the online dating companies are very careful to try to maintain people’s privacy to the best that they can. But once you start interacting with people, information starts to come out and then you can you can start to use a few pieces of information to decide to learn who exactly this person is.
 
00;05;52;03 – 00;06;24;0
Heather
The photographs that you are supposed to put on online dating sites. So people know what you look like. If you include photographs with friends, it’s very easy to find people using photographs and a lot of the data broker sites that we Opt people out of, they will clue in to social media. Photos, images, anything that’s related to you that they can grab a piece of that has, you know, a photograph has a piece of location, information attached to it. It’s really easy to find people that way using pictures. So that I can be a little bit alarming.
 
00;06;24;05 – 00;06;43;1
Lawrence
You could think, “Okay, I’m trying to get to know somebody in the dating app” and Boom. “Whoa. I just got a text message from them. I haven’t given them the number. How did they get my cell phone number?” Well, oftentimes the person on the other end is skilled enough in Web searches that they will figure out who you are.
 
00;06;43;19 – 00;07;10;2
Lawrence
And then it’s very simple using these people search data broker sites to find out your phone number and then all of a sudden you’re getting these unwanted text messages or even phone calls from this person and you haven’t revealed your phone number yet. These people search sites that we remove people from, you know, the core of what it is that they’re selling is someone’s home address, phone number, email, but they’re also selling all these other details about your personal life.
 
00;07;11;06 – 00;07;53;1
Lawrence
So what they’ll often list is somebody’s estimated annual income or their estimated net worth or their political party. And so that is another common reason why people engaged in online dating are really loving the Optery service as a way to remove that information so they can interact with their potential partners, kind of with a clean slate without having that type of personal information revealed before they’ve got a chance to reveal just who they are as a person. As opposed to what their net worth or their income or their political party is.
 
00;07;53;18 – 00;08;17;0
Heather
The data brokers try and post the most current information they have on individuals, but a lot of times it’s outdated. Especially if you move or your marital status changes, which could affect how somebody perceives you when you’re doing online dating. Say your marital status has changed and somebody goes and looks you up and finds it being a certain way that could be inaccurate.
 
00;08;17;01 – 00;08;27;0
Heather
So it’s really important to keep track of your information and make sure it’s current or to remove it so that you don’t run into problems that could be potentially harmful.
 
00;08;27;16 – 00;08;57;2
Lawrence
I would certainly recommend anybody that is engaging in online dating for the first time to do an assessment and to understand, you know, what information is out there on you, your home address, even family members names. Somebody could be online dating and they might offend somebody in some way or have somebody who is a scary individual. And that individual, they could even start to look up who your family members are and begin to attack or harass or stalk them as a way to get to you.
 
00;08;58;07 – 00;09;19;1
Lawrence
So if someone is engaged in online dating, it’s a very, very smart thing to take a step back and say, “Okay, what are the privacy implications if something goes wrong here? Do I need to take a few minutes to do a free scan at Optery which will go out and search for all of these people search sites to see what information is exposed about me?”
 
00;09;19;24 – 00;09;40;0
Lawrence
And then make a decision. “Should I start to opt out of those sites to get my home, address, my cell phone number removed, or am I comfortable with that being online? Or should I pay a service like Optery to have all that information removed as a way to protect myself and be a little more cautious and a little bit more security conscious as I go through my online dating activities?”
 
00;09;45;11 – 00;10;11;2
Heather
Without having to go off the grid to protect your privacy, Optery provides you the option to see where you are on data broker sites and decide whether or not you want to take action or not. And we can also provide that service for you. I try and keep myself as anonymous as possible, and when I first did an exposure report, I was just astonished at how much information of mine was out there that I didn’t volunteer.
 
00;10;12;01 – 00;10;38;2
Heather
Because when I think of P.I.I. is what we call personal identifiable information, the first word is personal. And I don’t give that out. It’s personal information. But yet all of these data brokers have it. And there are a lot of ways that other people can get it too. And by using Optery’s services and just being aware of where I’m exposed online, I’m able to better keep my information personal and private.
 
00;10;39;04 – 00;11;02;1
Lawrence
When somebody signed up for Optery, we then have a very powerful search engine that goes out and does these very deep searches into the people search data broker sites to see if you’re there or not. And we send out a report where we take screenshots and we’ll tell you, hey, we found you on these on average about 70 to 80 Web sites that are posting up their information for sale.
 
00;11;02;25 – 00;11;28;1
Lawrence
It makes a lot of sense upfront to do an assessment of where your information might be exposed online and use a service like Optery to remove that information, or at least to do a Free Exposure Report Scan and say, “Hey, I don’t have the money right now to spend for Optery.” Well, that’s fine. At Optery, we have a Free Basic Account that shows you all the places that you’ve been removed and gives you tips and shortcuts to go remove yourself for free.
 
00;11;28;26 – 00;11;45;0
Lawrence
We have many customers that pay us to remove their information. They like to outsource the work to us. They don’t have the time or the effort to keep track of all these hundreds of websites. So they say, “Hey, we’re going to pay Optery to remove removing from these places.”
 
00;11;45;03 – 00;12;27;2
Lawrence
But others say, “Hey, I’d rather not spend the money, I’d rather just do this myself. And I’d love to use Optery to get these free scans and to better understand where I am and then understand where I’m exposed. And do that, do that, work myself.” And we love that. That’s great. We love our free customers that use our platform for free. Anything that we can do to help people protect their privacy, even if they use our free plan, we love it. We’re all for that.
 

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