Warning to users of dating websites

In this shiny new age of big data and hyper-connectivity, the popularity of online dating is continuously growing.

Warning to users of dating websites

But figures suggest those looking for love on the internet could be putting themselves at risk by using apps with low security or websites with disreputable policies.

In the run up to St Valentine’s Day, the European Consumer Centre in Ireland (ECC Ireland) is advising consumers to be wary of dating sites with automatic renewal practices.

While many sites offer their services for free, some charge substantial membership fees which are renewed automatically unless the consumer cancels within a specific timeframe.

This can lead to frustration for customers who might not have realised they had to opt out before the renewal date.

In one case, an Irish woman signed up to a UK-based dating site. Finding she didn’t use the site frequently, the woman decided to delete her profile. She was still subjected to a renewed membership fee of €220 – the website said deleting her profile was not enough to constitute cancellation of membership.

Another Irish woman signed up for a free trial with a Luxembourg-based dating site. After receiving an email saying she had to cancel her membership within 7 days of the renewal date or pay €179, she decided to cancel the subscription 12 days before the date.

The website did not acknowledge her cancellation for a further seven days then said she had not cancelled in time.

After contacting ECC Ireland, the customer’s complaint was dealt with by the ECC in Luxembourg and the woman received a refund.

ECC Ireland is advising consumers to read the terms and conditions before signing up to websites. They are also advising customers retain copies of any correspondence or take screenshots of the cancellation process.

Meanwhile, new research shows 60% of dating apps have a medium to high level of security risk and are potential targets for cyber attacks.

Data released by IBM Security shows the majority of these apps are vulnerable to hackers who might be able to eavesdrop on conversations or access credit card information.

The study also reveals many dating applications have access to the phone’s camera, storage, GPS location and mobile billing information, all features which could be accessed by hackers if the app was compromised.

“Many consumers use and trust their mobile phones for a variety of applications. It is this trust that gives hackers the opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities like the ones we found in these dating apps,” said vice-president of IBM Security Caleb Barlow.

“Consumers need to be careful not to reveal too much personal information on these sites as they look to build a relationship.”

IBM Security has advised those who use dating apps not to divulge too much personal information such as workplace or birthday.

They also urge users to use different passwords for each online account and to read through the permissions of apps before you download or update them.

For more information, or to report an issue, go to eccireland.ie or phone 01 879 7620.

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence