Posted Online: Feb. 09, 2013, 6:50 pm
Technology fuels Valentine's Day trouble
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By Leslie Meredith
It can be great to take a risk with love, but that doesn't mean you should put your personal data in jeopardy.
Online dating sites have helped millions find true love (at least if you believe the ads), but the sites can be riddled with fake profiles designed to scam other members. And as Valentine's Day approaches, more people join sites like Match.com and eHarmony to find romance, a powerful lure for scammers.
"In the dating world, we see lots of scams now," Dave Evans, editor of OnlineDatingPost.com, said. "One person can create 5,000 to 10,000 profiles, because most of it's automated."
To find out if a person-of-interest is really who she or he says, you can try a simple test.
First, copy a profile photo and paste it into Google's image search. Open a new tab and go to google.com and then click on "images" in the navigation bar running across the top of the page. The search box will now have a camera that you may select to search by image. Paste your image in and see what comes up.
Fake profiles often use the images of lesser known actors. You may also get a LinkedIn, Facebook or other match, which you can use to find out more about the person. If at any time, you receive an email with a request for money, break off communication. And never agree to meet dates until you have enough information to confirm their identity such as their employment.
But those looking for love aren't the only ones at risk. People on the brink of breaking up should take precautions as well. (And most of this advice applies for most people in relationships — single and married.)
Security firm McAfee released a report warning that rejected lovers pose a very real threat to their exes when it comes to online security.
Love is blind
In its survey of 1,182 online adults, 95 percent of respondents said they trust their partners with personal data. They share passwords to their online banking accounts, Social Security numbers and credit-card numbers — pretty much the complete package to establish an online identity.
Couples also share sexy photos with each other. In fact, more than a third of Americans plan to send their partner sexy or romantic photos on Valentine's Day via text, email and social media. And one out of five people never bother deleting intimate messages and photos from their phones and computers.
But when couples split, trouble starts. One out of every 10 ex-partners will be threatened with exposure after a break-up. Lying, cheating and getting dumped were the reasons most frequently used to justify their revenge, such as posting compromising pictures of their exes online. And 60 percent make good on their threats.
In addition to sharing photos, spurned partners have frequently shared their ex's bank account numbers, health insurance IDs, Social Security numbers, email account log-ins and other passwords.
And even if an ex doesn't take action right away, he or she may continue to stalk a former partner long after the relationship is over. People track their ex-partners on Facebook more than they do their current partners, McAfee said.
Men are more likely to check up on their exes than women. Around 46 percent of men admitted to tracking their partner, ex-partner or partner's ex on Facebook or Twitter, compared to 37 percent of women.
When personal data is leaked, guys are more likely to fight back to recover what was lost. A handful of respondents said they have taken legal action against former partners for exposing personal data, most confront their exes and demand they undo the damage.
However, once data or photos are shared online, there's really no way to control who sees them.
If you're currently in a relationship, you can take simple steps to decrease your risk.
- Don't take revealing photos or allow them to be taken.
- Keep your passwords and other log-in information for your personal accounts to yourself.
- Don't send messages electronically that you wouldn't want the world to see.
- Put a pass code on your phone.
- Delete old emails, photos and other messages from your social media accounts and devices.
Ogden, Utah-based TopTenREVIEWS.com guides consumers by comparing products in the world of technology, including electronics, software and Web services. Have a question? Email Leslie Meredith at firstname.lastname@example.org, or join her at AskLeslie on Facebook or Leslie Meredith on Google+.