Have you ever considered using a dating site to find “the one”? Have you had concerns about your safety on those sites?

As part of a class project, Borke Obada, a master’s student in Computer Science, decided to research security precautions carried out by users when using dating sites.

She wanted to find out how people using these sites figured out if the people they chose to interact with were legitimate and how they protected their personal information.

Obada notes that little research has been done in this field and says that it was important to carry out this research due to the growing popularity of dating sites and social media hook-up applications. She shared that, as of 2015, Canada was ranked the 7th country most susceptible to dating site scamming.

“While scamming is present on almost any online platform, studying the scamming carried out on dating sites is much more important as the sole purpose of dating sites is to meet strangers,” shares the graduate student. “This then makes the scamming attacks that occur on this platform much more delicate and quite tricky.”

Obada interviewed 10 people. “All the participants who were interviewed narrated how they had to continuously deal with supposed scammers. Though participants claim scammers were reduced on the paid platforms of the dating sites, they were never completely devoid of them.

Through her study, she found out that many users don’t employ sufficient security measures. Her participants told her that the basic precautions they followed were meeting up with the person in a public place and checking out the potential date on social media to be sure they were who they claimed to be. One participant did say that she always takes a picture of the license plate of her potential date and sends it to all her friends so they know who she’s with.

When asked if there are specific ways of detecting scammers, the participants listed a few such as:

  • Gut Feeling: “You just have to have a good judgy character”
  • Conversation Speed: “People who reply way too fast on dating sites are scammers”
  • Conversation Style: “Creepy ones always start the conversation way off the line”
  • Fall In Love Too Quickly: “All of a sudden they are in love with you. . . they want to meet you right away, those are fake people!”
  • Profile Picture: “If the picture is too cute…then something is fishy”, “If they keep asking you for nudes then they are scammers”

“Apart from these basic security measures, participants more or less leave everything to fate and hope they are making the right choice by going on a date with someone they met via a dating site,” says Obada. “It is therefore safe to conclude that dating sites users do not have sufficient security measures to protect themselves from online scamming.”

She also found that users don’t balance sharing their personal information online in order to maintain their privacy.

She hopes this study brings to light the importance and need to carry out much further research in the field of the security and usability of dating sites. In the future, she wants to carry out more research on this topic in order to help provide statistical figures on the amount of harm dating site scamming have done to those affected and how dating site companies can better weed out scammers from their sites.

Obada says her supervisor Dr. Sonia Chiasson was immensely helpful while she conducted and carried out her research. “She assisted in narrowing down the scope of the research, provided the necessary items needed to successfully carry out the research and continuously gave constructive feedback at every stage of the research.”

Says the student: “I’ve been in Canada for less than a year and all of my computer science professors have been incredibly helpful to me in my pursuit of a master’s degree. They are always ready to assist in whatsoever way they can. It is sincerely a great department to be in.”

After completing her master’s, Obada hopes to start her PhD in computer science doing research focused on computer security.

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