The Netflix hit “The Tinder Swindler” took viewers by storm with a story of lies, deceit and financial gain. The show shines a light on the perils of online dating. With an increase in singles and a decrease in chance encounters thanks to the pandemic, many have been in search of companionship and turning to online dating to help. However, how can one be sure an amor is who they claim to be? How far is too far when looking for love on the World Wide Web?
From serious relationships and casual flings to communication and attachment, the popularity of dating apps has soared since their origination. In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, an estimated 26 million users actively participated in dating apps in the United States alone. While numbers are expected to decrease slightly, romantic crime numbers continue to climb and take claim over vulnerable singles. Listed as the country’s most popular dating app, Tinder boasts more than seven million users across its platform. With the increase of viewership of The Tinder Swindler, many singles are now on alert across all dating platforms.
In 2020, the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, reported 572 victims of romance crimes in Michigan totaling more than 26 million in financial loss. With 168 cases reported, law enforcement is encouraging residents to stay safe and report suspected cases of romantic cybercrimes to the proper authorities.
“If you suspect you are a victim of these particular scams, the first thing to do is stop communicating with the person who introduced you to the fraud, as well as anyone related to the fraudulent trading websites, and report the fraud right away to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, IC3.gov,” said Dan Rutherford, associate director of customer outreach with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. “The reason is that many times, the supposed love interests will use shame, threats and even blackmail to get victims to continue to pay. Other schemes tell victims that they can get their money back if they pay additional fees or taxes or invest more. These are typically lies to get more money from victims.”
With cyber dating most popular on college campuses, cell phones are a major catalyst for romance crimes. In a digital era, young adults have not only enlisted the help of dating apps, but social media sites to find love. The same level of danger exists as users tend to overshare for their followers leaving them vulnerable to cybercrimes.
“Cell phones and technology these days those come hand-in-hand with dating so sometimes we utilize information on the phones to help investigate those crimes as well,” said Detective Trooper Specialist Isaac Kwiatkowski with the Michigan State Police.
Staying safe while using a dating app is a top concern for organizations and law enforcement. The Michigan State Police and local jurisdictions continue to track cases of romantic cybercrimes and share best practices so singles can avoid the pitfalls of dating apps.
“Do not provide people with personal identifying information, PII is what a lot of people refer to it as. So, don’t give your full name, your date of birth, your passport. I would avoid using my personal address if you can avoid it until you’ve vetted them,” said Kwiatkowski. “Secondly, take it slow, for lack of a better term. Some people rush into things.”
To assist those victimized by romance crimes, Tinder has partner with RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, to combat cases of romance crimes and provide support to survivors.
“By adopting more trauma-informed support practices, Tinder will be better positioned to support members who may have experienced harm and take faster, more transparent action on bad actors,” said Clara Kim, vice president of consulting services at RAINN, in a press release.
Tinder is committed to keeping its users safe and securing privacy across its platforms. A host of new safety and reporting options have been rolled out to further their commitment to its users. The Safety Center will allow users to access background checks while also creating easier ways to file reports and follow up on actions taken by the app.
“Our members are trusting us with an incredibly sensitive and vulnerable part of their lives, and we believe we have a responsibility to support them through every part of this journey, including when they have bad experiences on and off the app,” said Tracey Breeden, vice president of safety and social advocacy for Tinder and Match Group, in a press statement. “Working with RAINN has allowed us to take a trauma-informed approach to member support for those impacted by harassment and assault.”