01.06.2016

Hookup hazards: are dating sites stepping up to ensure our safety?

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Creep or catch: can dating apps keep us safe? (Photo: Quinn Norton/Flickr)

Everyone’s had at least one experience with some creep-o pseudo sex-seeker online, right? Dodgy digi-daters are a thing. So what are the apps actually doing about it?

Back in 2010, pop-doc Catfish exposed a very real aspect of the internet. Hidden behind the anonymity of a computer screen, it can be very, very easy to pretend to be someone else. Working in the online dating industry, it’s something I’m constantly aware of. At least once a week a new story falls into my inbox – yet another victim falls prey to some phoney romancer. It’s a sad state of affairs believed to have cost singles over $50 million in the last year alone. Still, some dating sites are doing more than others to make seeking someone special – or, at least, not sleazy – a whole lot safer. Here’s what you need to know:

 


1. Lovestruck

In 2012 the British-founded site Lovestruck introduced a ground-breaking, free profile verification service. Daters are encouraged to verify their profile against Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. They submit social IDs, which a member of the Lovestruck team manually checks to ensure the photos, age, job title and relationship status correlate with information supplied to the dating site. Profiles which have been corroborated in this way display a “Verified” badge.

 


2. Antidate

The “asymmetrical” dating app Antidate was designed by Hatty Kingsley-Miller and her friend Mo Saha to tackle some of the problems Hatty herself had experienced whilst dating online. One of those problems was people not looking like their profile photos. So the British entrepreneurs added a time-stamped selfie feature to the app. Every user must take a photo when they sign up, which is added to the images on their dating profile.

 


3. Would Like To Meet

Established by dating expert Eden Blackman in 2013, Would Like to Meet was the first online dating site to launch as 100 per cent picture verified. Every potential member is required to record a private video clip to prove that they are the person in their photos. The video is never shared or published on the site, and every video is moderated by a real person. Only once the photos have been verified, is the member allowed onto the network.

 


4. Zoosk

Dating industry behemoth Zoosk has also recently introduced video verification. Whilst not mandatory, users are encouraged to submit videos, which are compared against their profile photographs to confirm that the photos are an accurate representation of their current real life appearance. Speaking at a recent industry conference, Zoosk’s CEO Kelly Steckelberg explained that these verified profiles enjoy up to 70 per cent more success on the site than non-verified ones.

 


5. EliteSingles

Arguably the highest bar of profile verification is currently set by EliteSingles. Though again not mandatory, members of the international dating site are encouraged to verify their identity using an official document – for example, their passport or driving license. Daters can then opt to only receive messages from other members who have proven their identity in this manner.

 


6. Scamalytics

As previously explained on Collectively, the anti-scammer software company Scamalytics works behind the scenes of a number of major dating sites, filtering out fake profiles before the scammers gain access to the site. Scammers can be identified by their email address, IP address, choice of photograph, location discrepancies, profile contents, behaviour, and a number of other markers.

Information about known scammers is then shared across the Scamalytics network of subscribed sites. This summer the company will make it easier for online daters to identify which sites are protected by the software by adding a shield mark to participating websites. In the coming weeks the company is also launching a photo-checking tool, so people can easily check if a photo has been stolen from someone else’s social media profile.

 


7. Online Dating Association

Finally, working behind all the dating sites is the ODA – the industry trade body. Liaising regularly with the police and crime agencies, the association has a keen focus on online dater safety, which underpins the organisation’s code of conduct, and it has just launched a new Date Great: Date Safe campaign, to help daters make the most of online dating services, whilst remaining safe.

 

 

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