Online dating sites are reporting record use amid the pandemic. Tinder had over 3 billionOpens a new window swipes in just one day last March, and virtual dates on OKCupid surgedOpens a new window 700%. Jumio CEO Robert Prigge stresses why dating sites must keep users safe by verifying identity and creating a seamless user experience. He explains how strong digital identity verification in dating apps is vital for a secure online dating experience as cybercriminals can easily catfish another user and solicit personal information to commit identity theft, account takeover, and fraud.
While online dating may be a safe way to meet and communicate with potential love interests amid the pandemic, it is difficult for users to confirm their connections’ actual identities. Cybercriminals can easily catfish another user and solicit money and personal information to commit identity theft, account takeover, and fraud.Â
In the first six months of 2020, people reported a record high of losing almost $117 millionOpens a new window to scams that started on social media. Unfortunately, most dating apps and social websites do not verify that their users claim to be when creating an account, nor do they require an ongoing authentication process to confirm an online store is still operated by the original account owner.Â
As online dating becomes essential to form connections amid the pandemic’s risks and restrictions, dating sites must keep users safe by verifying identity while creating a seamless user experience.
The Cost of Romance ScamsÂ
In 2019, romance scams were the second-highest reported crime to the FBI, with losses amounting to $201 millionOpens a new window . In these instances, cybercriminals used a fake identity to gain an online dating platform user’s interest. Once cybercriminals establish trust and trick users into believing they are authentic, they often solicit the user for money and personal information, which can be used to access a user’s bank account, email account, social media, and more. As the fraud risk escalates amid the pandemic, dating and social sites need to protect their users by verifying all users’ identities on their platform.Â Â
Why Traditional Verification Methods are InsufficientÂ
Since most dating apps verify identity through other apps such as Facebook, it is easy for cybercriminals to create a fake Facebook profile and assume the same identity on an online dating site. About halfOpens a new window of all romance scam reports to the FTC since 2019 involved social media, usually on Facebook or Instagram. Personal information is also readily available on the dark web (36 billionOpens a new window records were breached in 2020 alone).Â
Cybercriminals can use a tactic known as credential stuffing which employs bots at scale to attempt online account logins using stolen usernames and passwords. These traditional authentication methods offer no actual proof of identity and can ultimately put users at risk of scams. Online social sites need to implement more substantial forms of authentication to protect users’ safety and personal information by verifying without a doubt that users are who they claim to be, both when the account is created, and each time a user logs in.Â
The Need for Document-Centric Identity VerificationÂ
Dating sites can award user profiles 100% verified with an authenticity badge (similar to Twitter’s blue badge). Users can then decide if they want to interact with a non-verified user or someone who has taken the extra steps to verify their own identity. This dramatically reduces the possibility of being catfished or scammed by a fake user.Â
Although fraudsters take advantage of the recent surge in online dating to strengthen their tactics, we should expect social media platforms to transition to more rigorous forms of online identity and age verification to guarantee users are of legal age to use the site.
Identity proofing based on documents (comparing a government-issued ID to a selfie) guarantees that online users are who they say they are in the real world. When creating an account, users need to upload a photo of their government-issued ID and then take a corroborating selfie via a webcam or a phone. The two are then compared to ensure the identities match. Each time a user logs in, the user is asked to take a new selfie, which is compared to the initial one to ensure the same user operates the account.Â
This confirms that the account is only being operated by the user and not accessed by a cybercriminal with stolen information. The simple act of requiring a bonafide selfie has a significant chilling effect on fraudsters since it requires them to share their likeness with the person they’re looking to defraud. This process ultimately protects users with the security they demand while also providing the convenience they expect.Â
Looking to the Future
While it remains unclear when the pandemic will cease, online dating and virtual socialization are here to stay. As online social sites and apps facilitate conversations and meetups, they are responsible for keeping their users safe from fraudsters and physical harm. For online dating and social sites to create genuine connections, they need to ensure all site users are verified. Document-centric identity verification provides a secure and easy way for online organizations to confirm their users are who they say they are in the real world, ultimately keeping users protected while dramatically reducing the number of fake profiles.Â