Fake Profiles in Online Dating Platforms and Hicky’s Solution
How Widespread Are Fake Profiles, What Damage Can They Do, and How Does Hicky Solve the Problem?
Seasoned users of online dating platforms are very likely to have encountered fake profiles. Here’s a rundown of the types of fakes, the reasons they exist, and the damage they can cause:
Fake Profiles for the Purpose of Scams
We all know the Internet is rife with scams, but online dating platforms are particularly attractive to scam artists because when people believe they have found love, their emotions tend to cloud their judgement. Scam artists know this, so online dating platforms are a preferred stalking ground. Fake profiles for scams can be divided into two main types:
Scam Type #1: Build a Relationship, Ask for Money
There are a million variations, but a typical scam involves two very basic steps:
1. Build the relationship to the point that the victim believes you are kindred spirits.
2. Ask for money, with the amount asked for directly proportional to the amount of trust built up in step one.
If you think people don’t fall for this, consider the findings of a 1,000 participant survey conducted in 2016 by UK-based consumer watchdog Which?. The survey found an alarming 1 in 7 online dating service users admitted to sending money to someone they’d met through the service. When you’re in love, you’re far less likely to flag “I need $500 for a plane ticket to come see you!” as a scam.
Scam Type #2: Trick The Victim into Clicking on Something They Didn’t Want to Click On
This type of scam typically involves bots because it’s more of a numbers game. Here’s how it works:
1. Lure the victim in with an enticing profile.
2. Engage in a short AI driven conversation.
3. Explain that it would be better (more intimate, more personal, more convenient, more fun, etc.) to move the chat to another platform.
4. Send a link. The link could be something as harmless as a paid click-through for an advertisement, or as damaging as a virus or malware.
Interestingly, this type of scam is actually relatively easy for dating platforms to fix — but they don’t. A convincing argument as to why is made by blogger Christopher Ambler (who has 30 years systems coding experience). The gist of the argument is that many platforms actually benefit from these fake profiles. The Match Group, which has full or partial ownership of Match.com, Tinder (part), Plenty of Fish (part), Chemistry, OKCupid, Twoo, Meetic, and People Media, counts its total number of users at 59 million of which only 4.7 million (8%) pay for the dating service. The other 92% are restricted to basic features designed to lure them into paying for the unlocked full version. What better enticement is there to shell out a $30/month subscription than to get full chat access to that hottie who “winked” at you? Some platforms have (allegedly) even gone so far as to make their own fake accounts to convince users to pay for the full version. JDI Dating in 2014, for example, paid $616,765 to settle a lawsuit which accused them of doing just that; tricking users into pricey subscriptions by using fake profiles and messages.
There are two other types of fake profiles frequently encountered in online dating platforms. These are:
Fake Profiles for Revenge
In this case, the fake profile is (usually) of a woman whose identity has been stolen in a plot for revenge by, for example, a jilted lover. The target’s pictures are lifted from their social media accounts and posted in a profile on a dating site. The newly created fake profile can easily be verified using a newly created fake Facebook account. The owner of the fake accounts then gives out personal information about the target (like her phone number) to strangers “she” has matched with. In some cases, the jilted lover chats with matches, inviting them to the target’s house for a “good time” or whatever works to entice him to make the trip. This type of fake profile, which is terrifying for the target and annoying for the matches (who of course end up not getting what they expected), is extremely difficult for legacy dating apps to fight against because their verification systems are easy to cheat.
Fake Profiles for Fun
These fake profiles are generated by, again, making a fake social media account to “verify” the fake dating profile. There are many possible reasons for doing this. It could be a guy who wants to see how women treat him when he’s super handsome or wealthy. It could be a girl who wants to see how other girls talk to men, and so makes a fake man’s profile (or vice versa). It could be adolescents (or psychopaths) who revel in the joy of toying with people in their search for love.
There are many reasons for and types of fake profiles in online dating platforms, and because legacy platforms are either not incentivized or unable to stop it, the problem is only getting worse.
Luckily, there’s a solution on the horizon.
Hicky’s blockchain powered DApp (decentralised app) has mechanisms in place that, in combination, solve all of the problems described above.
First of all, Hicky employs a face scanning tool that matches your selfie with a range of photos as well as (optionally) your identity document. It must be noted that this verification procedure does not mean that Hicky (or anyone else) has access to your identity document. The matching of the face in the identity document to the face in the camera simply confirms that the person sitting in front of the camera is the same person who appears in the identity document. Hicky is simply a platform that helps enable users to know that other users are who they say they are. This first verification step is just the start of that process. It weeds out scam artists not because it opens up the possibility of real-world consequences initiated by Hicky or its users by, for example, handing over documents to police (this would be impossible), but because it makes it prohibitively difficult for scam artists to function.
The next measure employed by Hicky to decrease the possibility of fraudulent participants is the voice verification process. This system, described in detail here, makes it so that matches cannot message each other until they have recorded a personal answer to one of 36 questions. These questions, and the process of answering them, serve the dual purpose of 1) adding another layer of difficulty for bots, and 2) kickstarting a relationship by giving matches something to talk about. Bots that have prepared realistic (human verifiable) answers for 36 questions must be significantly more sophisticated. In other words, the barrier to entry for bots is made much higher by this process.
The combination of the face-scanning tool and the voice verification procedure should make a large dent in the ability of human scammers and bots to get to the stage of communicating with genuine users, but it is still conceivable that sophisticated bots and determined human scammers are able to squeeze through the cracks.
However, there are two more components to the system that together are the final nails in the coffin for bots and scammers.
First, bots whose aim is to trick the victim into clicking on something they didn’t want to click on are priced out of doing so due to the fact that a very small cost is attached to all functions in Hicky through the use of the HKY token. The full list of challenges of benefits of this system are described in detail here.
Second is the community of users-as-arbiters who verify information and settle disputes on the Hicky platform, described in detail here. The more information a user gets verified through this system, the more trustworthy their profile will appear to other users. Someone whose goal it is to establish trust in order to scam people out of money will eventually be called out in the community if they do so. They would then have to start from zero using a different identity and building their trust score up from zero again. This process should drastically reduce, if not eliminate, the alarmingly high number of people currently being manipulated into sending money to someone they met on a dating platform.