Online dating exposes users to a dangerous world

​​Online dating apps have become one of the most popular ways to make romantic connections, despite the high safety risks that it poses for its users.

About 38% of dating app users have been harassed and over half of the users believe they have come across a scammer on an app, according to Pew Research.

Dating apps such as Tinder, Hinge and Bumble allow users to swipe through seemingly endless profiles. Out of the 46% of Americans who have used a dating app or site, about half have used Tinder.

Although online dating allows users to have hundreds of options at their fingertips, harassment is still rampant on these platforms, especially for women and LGBTQ+ people.

Fifty-six percent of women under 50 who have used dating apps or sites have received unwanted sexually explicit messages from people, according to Pew Research.

Senior English education major Carina Hayes previously used Hinge and Tinder, where she occasionally received inappropriate messages from her matches.

“Men would message some things that were overtly sexual,” said Hayes. “There would be an occasional message that was gross and terrible, but nothing traumatically bad.”

Junior information systems major Ryan Maniego said he frequently receives graphic photos and messages that fetishize his race on dating apps.

“It’s generally really creepy messages,” said Maniego. “It’s more common on Grindr, of course, because it’s a hookup app, but also on Tinder.”

Many of these dating apps also lack proper background checks or profile verifications for users, which can lead to dangerous encounters with scammers or catfishes.

Shimon Hayut, known as the “Tinder Swindler,” tricked women into sending him money by presenting himself as Simon Leviev, the son of a billionaire tycoon.

After taking his matches out on lavish dates, he would manipulate them into letting him borrow money. It is estimated that he scammed approximately $10 million dollars from his victims, according to the Netflix documentary “Tinder Swindler.

Match Group, which owns dating apps like Tinder, Hinge and Plenty of Fish, partnered with Garbo last year to launch in-app background checks.

For $2.50 and an additional processing fee, users can search their match’s name and phone number through a database. Users may be able to see if their match has a criminal history or is on a sexual offender registry, which they are urged to report.

Additional safety precautions should be taken if people choose to meet up with their match in person. According to Hinge’s safe dating advice, users are urged to meet in public and tell their family or friends about their plans.

“There was one time when I was going over to this person’s house and I sent one of my friends their address,” said Hayes. “I was like, ‘I’m gonna text you every 30 minutes, and if I don’t, then call.’”

Other precautions include not leaving personal items or drinks unattended and having reliable transportation to and from the date.

Incidents can be reported to the dating app or site, but victims are urged to call law enforcement if they are in immediate danger.

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