Love at First Swipe: Dating app dangers and how to protect yourself

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Valentine’s Day is here, and more and more people are searching for that special someone online. But can it be love at first swipe?

The FBI is currently warning folks about online romance scams that can break your heart and your bank account.

You’ve probably heard of E-Harmony, Match.com, and even Farmers Only. What about Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge?

For some, joining dating apps has become almost as popular as interacting on other social media like Fccebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

But, according to a tech expert, these apps can be far more dangerous.

That’s because when you’re looking for love, you tend to open up and share more information about yourself, which leaves you more vulnerable.

“You’re not selling an object here,” tech expert Kevin Hodges said. “This is more personal. This is something you should be much more protective of.”

Hodges told 7 News, when using these apps, you shouldn’t give out information like your address or your phone number.

“Stay inside the app,” he said. “One, it’s monitored. Two, it’s recorded; so, if there is an issue, they can go back to it.”

Hodges said, in the digital dating realm, you’re selling yourself and you don’t want to be scammed or worse.

“As safely as you would treat banking–or anything, for that matter, that you consider personal,” he said. “Nothing could be more personal than you and yourself.”

And catfishing–when scammers pretend to be someone they’re not–is a very real threat.

“You’re viewing a persona and you don’t know the accuracy of that persona, the realness of that. You can be anyone behind a keyboard,” Hodges said. “I could put a more attractive picture up there. I can make myself taller, make myself younger. I can have a better job.”

Of course, it’s not all bad news. There are some happy couples out there who met online, like the Watsons: a dating app start with a fairy tale ending.

“We told some people we met on Tinder, but most people think we just met at a bar, because I was real big into partying,” Matthew Watson said with a laugh.

“His pictures were really distinctive,” his wife Bailey remembered.

But Bailey and Matthew Watson took some precautions, saying they messaged each other on the app for a couple of months before meeting in person.

When they did meet, it was during the day, in a public place, and friends knew their plans.

“She had an excuse that her mama was in town, but come to find out, her mama was really in town,” Matthew said.

About two years after Bailey and Matthew matched on Tinder, they got engaged. Eight months later, they were married. And, now, they have their first baby on the way.

“You can say it all the time, but she really does complete me, and I was just lucky to find something like that,” Matthew Watson said.

So, while some say dating apps aren’t for them, others say give it a shot… but be careful.

“There are plenty of people out there, on those dating apps, who want something serious,” Bailey Watson said.

“Everything else is replaceable in your life. Money, objects, all of those things. But you are not, and a dating app is you and it’s the single-most important thing you have,” Hodges said.

Click here to learn more about online romance scams and click here if you believe you’ve been a victim.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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