The dating world today is miles apart from what it was even five years ago, and dating app usage is expected to increase 21% from 2020 to 2025 – with 53.3 million Americans projected to be using...
The dating world today is miles apart from what it was even five years ago, and dating app usage is expected to increase 21% from 2020 to 2025 – with 53.3 million Americans projected to be using dating apps in two years. Online dating is the new normal, but with it comes a slew of concerns, all stemming from not really knowing who you’re interacting with in the digital world of romance. There’s one big concern that’s made headlines, become the subject of many a streaming docuseries, and has probably affected a few of your friends and family: scammers.
In 2021 alone, there were nearly 25,000 recorded victims of romance/confidence scams online with a total of $956 million lost, according to the FBI’s 2021 IC3 Report. Per the FBI, “romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and confidence. The scammer uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim.”
There are so many ways that scammers take advantage of unsuspecting victims. Many victims report being pressured into investment opportunities, especially using cryptocurrency. In 2021, the IC3 received more than 4,325 complaints, with losses over $429 million, from victims who reported that the scammer pressured them into investments in cryptocurrency or other (fraudulent) opportunities, a situation now known by the term “pig butchering.” The scammer's initial contact is often made via dating apps and other social media sites. Per the FBI, the scammer gains the confidence and trust of the victim, and then claims to have knowledge of cryptocurrency investment or trading opportunities that will result in substantial profits, before ultimately stealing funds.
Who is feeling the strain?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also received reports of romance scams that are outlined in their Consumer Sentinel Network. They found that in the first three quarters of 2022, over $397 million was lost due to romance scams to all ages (fourth quarter numbers are not available yet from the FTC).
Out of everyone affected, however, those aged 50-69 made up the majority of victims, losing a total of $179.65 million in the first three quarters of 2022 alone. And right behind this group are millennials aged 30-49, who lost a whopping $120.09 million in the first three quarters of 2022. Adults 80+ had the highest median loss of $10,790 with only 338 reported victims out of the total 25,788 reports that the FTC received from all age groups from Q1-Q3 of 2022.
What about dating apps specifically?
Aura decided to dive deeper into dating app-specific users to find out the prevalence of scams on dating apps. We conducted a survey with Ipsos of 1000 Americans to find out how often this is taking place and what forms it manifests in. The survey found that 2 out of 10 Americans have used dating apps, and that they are indeed ripe with fraudulent behavior, some of which results in financial loss for users.
Aura’s findings include:
- Out of the Americans who have used dating apps, 30% have suspected fraudulent behavior and 17% have experienced fraudulent behavior on dating apps
- When it comes to monetary losses, out of those who experienced fraud on dating apps, 13% lost money, losing over $2000 on average
- 50% of Americans who have used a dating app in the past five years have experienced catfishing, which is more than double from 24% over 5 years ago.
- 30% of Americans who have used a dating app in the past five years have encountered someone asking for money
- 20% of Americans who have used a dating app in the past five years have encountered someone asking them to invest in cryptocurrency
- 12% of Americans who have used a dating app in the past five years have experienced “pig butchering”, which has also more than doubled from 5% over 5 years ago.
- Fraud on dating apps has increased especially in the last 5 years. Americans who have used a dating app in the last 5 years saw a 40% increase in the amount of fraud they have suspected or experienced, compared to those who used dating apps over 5 years ago
Online daters called out three scams as the most prevalent they have experienced: catfishing, financial fraud, and phishing. These three scams made up 80% of dating scams that Americans experienced.
What is the solution?
The question remains, how much responsibility do online dating platforms have to ensuring their users are able to have genuine interactions with people on their sites and to prevent scammers from making accounts and taking advantage of innocent users?
In early January, Match Group, the parent company to dating apps like Tinder, Hinge, Match, Plenty of Fish, Meetic and OurTime, among others announced the launch of a new campaign that gives users in-app and email tips on how to avoid being scammed online. Although dating apps have developed various tools to catch suspicious profiles such as background checks and methods to prevent scammers from hiding from victims, there are still people who are able to bypass these protections and use these apps to scam and steal from users.
And while these companies encourage users to report fraudulent behavior on their apps, romance scams and similar incidents continue to be severely underreported, primarily due to stigma and embarrassment. It seems as if the best way to prevent such scams from happening is to raise awareness among users and empower them to report if and when they experience fraudulent or suspicious behavior.
In the age where the majority of people are meeting the love of their life online, scammers taking advantage of hopeful romantics should never be on anyone’s Valentine’s Day bingo card. Staying vigilant, spreading the word, and reporting fraudulent activities are some of the most foolproof ways to ensure that dating experiences online stay genuine for all online daters.
As a rule of thumb, never trust anyone that you have only met online with your sensitive personal information. Never send money to individuals you don’t trust and always ask if your date is willing to video chat before going out with them. Scammers are always looking to take advantage of victims’ trust, especially when there is money involved.
For more tips on how to spot and avoid romance scams, click here.
Full data and methodology available for review upon request, reach out to email@example.com.
About the Study
This Aura/Ipsos Poll was conducted January 27-30, 2023, by Ipsos using the probability-based KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,000 general population adults age 18 or older.