Dating app scammers pose a serious barrier to people wanting to use such services, according to a recent study.

In particular, 35% of respondents in South Africa are afraid to use them, as they fear being deceived by fraudsters, and 35% generally do not trust people in dating apps.

However, only 17% of respondents were targeted by cybercriminals, and 34% who contacted fraudsters managed to avoid an attack.

Millions of individuals use online dating applications or social networking sites in order to find a partner. But, instead of finding love, many people encounter a con artist attempting to dupe them into giving money.

Scammers are drawn to dating services because they know that people on these platforms are looking for a personal connection, and they can take advantage of that.

Of all the different types of issues on dating apps, users most often encountered catfishing (61%), malicious links or attachments (18%) or found that their identity had been stolen (19%).

Those who managed to avoid an attack were able to identify a fraudster with a suspicious profile that looked fake (48%); were extremely careful and never sent money to dating applications (68%); or paid attention to suspicious messages (41%). 29% of respondents became suspicious when the scammer refused to arrange a video call.

Lack of privacy is also a serious issue for dating apps. 27% of local respondents are worried that their personal data will be circulated online. Moreover, 19% of users deleted dating services because they wanted to make personal information more private.

“Dating online can be perceived as a risky adventure, as at the beginning of the acquaintance you don’t know anything about each other,” comments David Jacoby, security researcher at Kaspersky. “However, keeping an eye out for some red flags can help you stay alert and pay attention to your digital match’s behaviour.

“If they ask for money or personal details during the first or second day of online dating, it’s better to consider whether it’s safe to continue communicating. Additionally, security measures can be a helpful way to keep your online dating experience safe and enjoyable.

“Anyone who registers on a dating app is, in principle, willing to open up and reveal personal information to a certain extent,” Jacoby adds. “After all, getting to know each other requires a willingness to share details about yourself. If this openness – and a little bit of the defenselessness that comes with it – is exploited, the injuries will run deep. In an analogue meeting, one can hope to recognise whether someone has good or bad intentions. But here, too, it is possible to be wrong, because experienced scammers can disguise themselves incredibly well.

“New technologies play an ambivalent role. On the one hand, it is the medium of choice, and many people now know how to protect themselves. On the other, people are aware that there are many (sophisticated) ways to abuse it.

“To protect yourself, you need to recognise what the fraudster is after. Money? Data? An identity to steal? Or does the other person want to stalk or emotionally blackmail you?”

Therapists Birgitt H√∂lzel and Stefan Ruzas from the Munich practice Liebling + Schatz, comment: “In these situations, you should immediately ask the counter-question, why is this information important to the other person? Whether they are asking about your financial situation, health, a recent major life event, exact employer and position in the company, request for erotic pictures, request for linking with friends, secrets or weaknesses, to name just a few.

“Great caution is required and if a strange feeling persists, the contact should be cut off immediately.”