Dating – dangerous game of “romantic Russian Roulette”

Dating apps have become extremely popular among millennials. Well, when you consider just how busy their lives have become, what with their career, family, and social life, choosing an alternative to blind dates that saves plenty of time is indeed enticing. This is why apps like Tinder and Bumble have witnessed unprecedented growth in recent years. But are dating apps really what meets the eye? Or are there some hidden honey traps that they don’t tell you about? Read on to know this, and more.

Nothing ever props up on the internet that doesn’t offer certain advantages. Dating apps are no exception to this. It can render numerous benefits, including;

An Opportunity to talk to different people at the same time:

One of the most notable advantages of dating apps is how it allows you to talk to several people at the same time. You can then save plenty of time, and eliminate the ones not worth the minutes in the first round itself. Moreover, since you’ll be talking over chat, you don’t have to fret over “breaking hearts” in person either.

No Geographical Barriers:

Your potential partner could be living on the other side of the globe, and still be able to connect with you through a dating app, a privilege absent in traditional dating.

No Family Intervention:

If you’re a grown person, capable of making decisions on your own, there is no reason why your parents should intervene in your dating life. Dating apps empower this privilege of yours, as you silently browse for the love of your life, without having your parents disapprove of the whole notion of “dating”.

Then again, if something is so good, there’s bound to be a catch. The only difference is, the catch of dating apps can lead to some unreal troubles, including crimes. So much so, that the news magazine, Crime Watch Daily, said that by dating online, women specifically are playing the dangerous game of “romantic Russian Roulette”. There’s a reason why they summarised the whole idea of online dating so sinisterly. Here is the outline of the dark side of dating apps.

Cyber Crime: One of the most common crimes that follow online dating is cybercrime. From stealing images to names to stealing something as lofty as money by swindling people on such applications, cybercrime through online dating can take many shapes. Elderly people, who wish to meet someone new, are specifically prone to these, owing to being ignorant of impersonation, and catfishing crimes. Moreover, some of the hacked dating profiles are also sold at an exorbitant price. In 2016, reports emerged that someone put an advertisement for 27 million dating profiles, all of them hacked into, with an asking price of $8700. To top it off, a lot of popular dating apps lack a legal framework that holds cybercriminals accountable or entrenches a format for legal recourse to the aggrieved parties. Cyberstalking is another, albeit not as heinous, a crime that often puts women in vulnerable spots. Rekha Sharma, the chairperson of the National Commission for women, revealed shocking statistics that suggest cyberstalking has risen on such platforms by 500% from last year. The harrowing part is, more often than not, online stalking on dating apps can very well lead to physical stalking, since the offender would already tentatively know the whereabouts of the person. Moreover, the Information Technology Act, 2000, which primarily deals with crimes pertaining to the internet and electronic commerce, provides no fixed definition to cyberstalking, paving way for ambiguity, and exploitation of the legal loopholes it presents to the perpetrators. Cyberstalkers and criminals, with a stronghold over the law, could wriggle their way out of accountability for their crimes, by abusing such loopholes. However, there is a last-resort recourse for people who find themselves in the middle of cybercrimes. Aggrieved parties can reach out to the authorities through the National Cyber Crime Cell, The good news is, certain dating apps like Bumble, are taking up initiatives to combat stalking, which empowers women to hide their full name until a connection is established, which again, would be the decision of the women alone. To people who are curious, under section 67 of the IT Act, the punishment for cybercriminals that engage in obscene content, and share the same, is five years of incarceration, and a fine of ₹1 lakh. Moreover, the aggrieved person could also slap a defamation charge on the perpetrator, under section 500, of the Indian Penal Code, while experiencing cyberstalking, morphing, or impersonation using name and picture.

Predatory Behaviour:

The article by the magazine noted that the density of internet predators on such apps is unreal. Reports suggest that not all dating apps have a stringent mode of screening sex offenders. Almost 100 murders and 16,000 abductions, and thousands of sexual assaults per year are committed in the United States. It cited women’s trusting behavior to be the reason, which is largely influenced by dating apps. Without knowing who they are talking to, their background, real-life personality, and such, girls tend to form an image of their potential partner from how they text. This pushes them to meet the predators in real life, and get themselves trapped. In 2019, a man named Glen Hartland was incarcerated for sexually assaulting three women, whom he lured using Tinder. Following this, one of the women committing suicide. In addition to this, a survey done by Triple J on online dating revealed that out of 400 responses that were received, the majority of them experienced sexual predatory behavior. This alarmed the dating app users beyond belief and reminded us of the horrors that lurk behind our screens.

Identity Theft: On dating apps, one can be anything. So some choose to be something they’re absolutely not. Studies suggest that 10% of online dating profiles are fake, and about 90% of them are dead. Identity thefts on dating apps are not unheard of. It’s pretty simple to impersonate someone by downloading their pictures and credentials through social media, and create a fraudulent profile of the same on the dating app, provided that the person doesn’t have an account of their own. See how simple that is? The worst part is, other dating app users have no way of verifying whether or not the picture they are looking at is the real deal. They might be enticed into meeting this seemingly rich, successful, and good-looking person, and get themselves in trouble. Moreover, there are also other factors that people can be swindled into believing. Symantec, a security software company, conducted a survey, which revealed that users lying about their age, height, and relationship status is quite common.

While cybercrimes through dating apps are common, there are a few ways in which one could protect themselves from such felonies.

Never open a link sent to you on a dating app, regardless of what context the sender gives. The link could hack into your computer, or worse, the webcam.
Do not engage with suspicious profiles.
Block users that are leaning towards harassment, or are making you uncomfortable. Report their accounts to the application’s authorities, and raise a red flag.
Do not share personal information, or set up a meeting, without conversing for a long while. Do some research on the person on social media or anything that might suggest that they’re not catfishers or impersonators.

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