Online dating this Valentine's Day? Be safe rather than sorry!

February 13 2021: As we approach a Valentine’s Day unlike any other it is fair to suggest that the world of dating and formulating new relationships have undergone a significant shift following COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns. While human connection maintains its distance, the ‘inhuman’ are stepping in, and staying over.
The growth of AI in sex and relationships have been expedited by global events, while algorithmic dating and chatbots have found a place in ordinary life, VR, AI and robotics may yet carve out a place in love lives across the world. Leaders in innovation and cybersecurity, Kaspersky have been examining this trend as it grows in prominence. While people attempt to fulfil human connections with less human interaction, we may indeed be on the cusp of a surge in AI, robot and virtual relationships.
Key data findings:
-The 2020 ‘Love and Loneliness’ report from Kaspersky found that 84% of people across Europe admitted that they were lonelier during the pandemic than before as a result of not being able to see family, friends and colleagues.
- While loneliness has been heightened by COVID it was already on the rise, four in 10 people who say they have felt lonely during the pandemic, also felt the same way prior to the outbreak and lockdown.
Young adults (aged 18-30), people with low household income and those living alone were at heightened risk of loneliness during the pandemic.
- Young people are more likely to seek ‘human’ contact through technology – research found that detachment from human contact led to 64% of 18-24 year-olds, and 66% of 25-34 year-olds spending more time using tech than they were prior to COVID.
- Italy is the loneliest country in Europe with as many as 59% admitting they feel lonely at least some of the time.
- 2020 research found that more than a quarter of respondents are combating loneliness by helping others or being part of community initiatives. This rose as high as 35% in Portugal.
- Digital aids have also breached the older generations, with 64% of the Baby Boomer and Silent Generation demographics feeling that tech has helped to combat their loneliness.
Some experts predict that by 2050 robot relationships and even marriages will be the norm
Our world has been moving toward the digital plane for more than a few decades, and 2020 saw its pace pick up. Most likely 2021 will be no different, and dating’s strong presence in the online world is no surprise. Online dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, Zoosk, and the like are continuing to grow their audiences.
On the other hand, bots and crooks look for prey on dating platforms, and the more data you give away and the more eagerly you participate in the platforms’ activities, the easier it is for those malicious elements to succeed.
Kaspersky guide to safe and private online dating: 
How to set up your safe and private Tinder profile
Your Tinder profile should contain only three items. (the following is broadly true for other apps as well.)
1. Your photos. Use real photos of yourself, but choose ones that don’t give away unnecessary information such as your address, employer, and so on. Choose photos from trips or of landmarks, with no personal data and no other people. Remember that someone can use the photos you post to find your social media profiles, so choose photos that don’t appear anywhere else, and don’t forget to set up your social media accounts correctly.
2. Your name. Whether you use a pseudonym or your real name, don’t give up your full name here. Consider that using a nickname may result in confusion, though.
3. Your interests. If you’re looking for a relationship, fill in at least a few, keeping in mind that hobbies and interests may be important criteria for potential partners.
Some don’ts
Using dating apps, you may encounter some traps as well. Here are a few to avoid.
1. Don’t tie your Instagram (or other social media accounts) to your dating app profile. That gives away too much potentially usable information about you. Even if you’ve already set up Instagram for privacy and security, there’s more risk than reward in tying the accounts together.
2. Don’t share your phone number or a messaging app handle. Dating apps strongly recommend sticking with their built-in message platforms, and it is wise to do so until you are sure you can trust the person you’re chatting with. Also, when you are ready to move to Telegram or another messaging app, set it up to keep your private info secure.

- How to communicate safely on Tinder
1. Once you have a match, it’s probably time to talk to them. But don’t rush to tell your whole life story — and not just because that would be awkward. Basically, before telling your match something, consider how you would feel if it became totally public. If you wouldn’t be comfortable with that, keep it to yourself for now.
2. Remember that you’re talking to a stranger. They might become the love of your life, but for now they could be anyone, so unfortunately, you have to keep doxing and stalking in mind. Those kinds of assault can begin with personal information given to the wrong person, so, again, don’t rush to share private details.
3. The person you’re talking to may be every bit as kind and understanding as they seem, but they could also be a crook who has taken on someone else’s persona. Crooks commonly build trust before asking for money (urgently) or information. Being asked for money or gifts in a dating app is perhaps the hugest of red flags, so, no matter the reason — and whether it’s a small amount of money to get to your place or a larger sum to pay ransom on your match’s life — if they ask for money, cut off communications. The chances they are telling the truth are negligible.
4. Crooks may also try to phish some of your private data, so be wary if your match asks you to install an app on your phone or to visit a certain website, or starts asking questions about, say, your favorite teacher or your first pet (common website security questions). What do you have to lose? Well, the app may be malicious, the website may be a phishing page, and that information can help someone steal your money or identity.
Being cagey online can help you stay safe, but it’s also important to have a good security solution that has your back and automatically scans Web pages and new apps.
Another kind of account you may run into on dating services belongs to bots. They are here for the same reasons: to try to lure you into giving away your money or data. Unlike those of the crooks, however, these accounts are automated. If you get a funny feeling about a chat, and if the other person’s replies don’t quite match up with your questions, it’s safe to assume you’re talking to a bot and stop replying completely.