McAfee’s latest research reveals a significant shift in consumer behaviour in the past year, with 65% of Brits increasing their online social activities – including online dating and the use of social media.
Despite this, a huge 86% don’t feel secure dating online, and 60% are aware that the information and images they share on social media could be used against them. Yet less than half (44%) have updated their online security in the past year, despite the surge in online activity.
When it comes to dating apps, almost a third (32%) of 16-35-year-olds have had their dating app accounts hacked – of whom over a quarter (27%) were extorted for money, and a further 23% had their identity stolen.
More than 2 in 5 victims who fell victim to hacks were subject to emotional blackmail
30% of men have knowingly encountered a fake dating profile online
92% of respondents admitted to looking at their romantic interest online, with 58% opting to “stalk” on Facebook and 29% using Google search to find out more about date
Nearly half (48%) have used the internet to find out information about an individual they would not want them to know
Online dating goes a lot further than using dating apps – nearly all respondents admitted to searching for a date or ex-partner on social media or Google search, with over two thirds (69%) of respondents having had a snoop on their potential love interest or current partner’s social media, and a further 29% use Google search to check on a potential date.
As a result, 13% found private information about their love interest’s family, and 10% found details about where their new flame lives.
One in 10 respondents discovered their partner was cheating by snooping online, and a further 9% found themselves in the sticky situation of finding out a friend was cheating on their partner. And, when snooping on an ex, a further 12% found out that they had a new partner.
It would appear that Gen Z is the most used to navigating their love lives online – a huge 78% found information online that the person wouldn’t want them to know, with 16% discovering their partner is cheating on them, and 25% finding out someone had a new partner. Furthermore, nearly half (49%) of the age group have encountered a fake profile or catfish.
Living up to their reputation as being digital savvy, 82% of this younger generation are aware that their online information could be used against them, as opposed to 33% across the other age groups. However, being aware of the threats is not enough – 58% of Gen Z have fallen victim to a social media hack, of whom 14% have lost money as a result, and 17% were subject to emotional blackmail.
In contrast, the majority of respondents aged 46 or over have had little to no experience of online dating scams, with only 6% having experienced a dating app scam, and only 9% having come across a fake profile. 84% of this older generation reported that no one has ever logged into their social media or emails without permission, and 72% claim never to have snooped on an individual online to find out more about them. Over half (56%) have never considered that their online information could be used against them.
Says Chief Scientist and McAfee Fellow, Raj Samani:
“Every day, people leave streams of information about themselves online without considering the risks that their digital footprint can bring. Our research shows just how easy it is for someone to find personal, sensitive information about someone else online, some of which could be used to the person’s detriment. ”
Tips from McAfee about how to protect your information online:
· Don’t overshare on social media: Oversharing online can paint a picture of us very quickly. Keep sensitive data such as your date of birth, address, job, or names of family members private. Also, rethink whether you really want your relationship status made public.
· Sharing is not always caring: Only share photos and other social media posts with your intended audience. If you have blocked an individual, make sure they stay out of your social media feeds. Services like Facebook and Instagram have features that allow posts to be viewed only by confirmed connections. Check your privacy settings regularly, as they often change.
· Protect your identity and important personal and financial details using a tool such as McAfee Identity Theft Protection, which also includes recovery tools should your identity be compromised.
· Employ multi-factor authentication to double-check the authenticity of digital users and add an additional layer of security to protect personal data and information.
· Be careful who you befriend online. Only accept friend requests from people you know in real life. Often hackers or criminals will send requests so they can see the information you are sharing to help them access your private information.
· Set up unique logins for each app you are using. Setting up a different password for each app or account you use is a great way to protect yourself and your data online. If you no longer use a social media account, delete your information and deactivate your account.
· Watch out for geo-tagging. Many social networks will tag a user’s location when uploading a photo, as well as offering users the option to tag their location when posting. You should ensure this feature is turned off to avoid disclosing your location to criminals or people you would not want to know your whereabouts.