Cyberdating: A Valentine's caution

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, thoughts of flowers, candy and true love are being changed by modern technology as never before. There's good and bad and awful.

When romance is in the air, the internet has become a go-to place with all manner of dating sites. But, Larry Magid, tech analyst and founder of Connect Safely, shares advice.

"There's a lot of people who have met their lifelong companion online, it could be a great thing. But there are cases where people have been physically harmed as a result of people who are not there for the right reasons," said Magid.

Aura, an identity protection and cybersecurity company, conducted a large survey of internet users who use dating applications. Aura found that half of Americans who used dating apps in the last five years say they were catfished-double than just five years ago.

That means they were lured into a relationship by a person who faked their real identity. 

"It happens on dating sites. It happens on social media, where you run into somebody, and they look great…sound great…very compassionate and everything is wonderful. But, they may be a scammer," said Magid.

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The numbers are startling. Thirty percent of users say they suspected fraudulent behavior with 17% being defrauded. 

Thirty percent of catfishers asked for money; 20% asked for an investment in cyber currency. Thirteen percent of those who experienced fraud on dating apps lost an average of over $2,000. 

"They might be out for your money, and they might break your heart and your wallet. So you need to be aware of the fact that not everybody is who they say they are," said Magid.

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Twelve percent of Americans who have used a dating app in the past five years have experienced "pig butchering"- a sophisticated scam that combines a romance with an investment that makes the victim so vulnerable and not cautious they get jilted and ripped off. 

"Always have that first date in a public place. Have a person kind of backing you up; maybe somebody you can call very quickly who will call you to check in," said Magid, who also urges users not over drink and always have their own ride home.

If dating app operators fail to take reasonable steps to protect users when they should have, they may be legally liable when a user is victimized. But that is tough or maybe impossible to prove.