Questions have been raised about a recent UK campaign that said dating sites don’t screen users before they are accepted onto a site.
Earlier this week, the City of London Police and Action Fraud launched a new campaign about common cybercrime myths, which focused on the rise of dating scams.
The two organisations revealed that scammers had conned 3,543 British victims out of over £33m last year.
With this information, they also spoke about some “popular myths” related to online dating, saying that the public believes dating site users are vetted before they are allowed onto a site.
The story received widespread coverage in the UK media, on BBC News and radio, The Telegraph, Daily Mail, Evening Standard and ITV News.
Part of the campaign was a leaflet featuring a skull entitled “Urban Myths”, that detailed common public myths, such as: “I can always trust the people I meet on online dating sites as they will have been vetted before being allowed to join.”
It then revealed the “reality”, saying: “Most dating websites allow people to sign-up without vetting checks.”
Obviously the word “vetting” is somewhat open to interpretation, as while sites don’t perform background checks, the majority utilise scam detection software and have security measures in place to weed out fraudulent profiles and scammers.
We spoke to the ODA about this campaign, who said they were disappointed with how the campaign was launched, along with the lack of clarity and input from the dating industry.
ODA Chief Executive George Kidd said: “We are serious about these issues, but, sadly, this was not evident in the dating myth buster material. For effect, the material gave the impression that sites do nothing to “vet” and protect users, and that possible scammers can act unchallenged. This is not true. It is a message that could unfairly damage the trust users have in services.”
Included in the press release from the City of London Police and Action Fraud was a quote from a police spokesperson, which said: “The reality is that most dating websites allow people to sign-up to the website without vetting checks, which means that fraudsters are able to use the website to target people online and defraud them.”
In response, Kidd said while the ODA was: “disappointed that the dramatic language and previously unreported statistics does nothing to recognise the industry’s achievements in deterring scammers, we totally share the cautionary messages sent by Action Fraud. There are some people online right across the web who are there simply to try to deceive money out of others.”
As part of its campaign, the organisations are listing a new Urban Myth every day for thirteen days.
The dating fraud myth comes after a number of high-profile cases of dating fraud, with scammers being jailed for their part in the growing number of online dating scams.