Criminals use dating apps to access sensitive information

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Mason Montgomery and his girlfriend met on Tinder, and they’ve been going strong for months. His story is an example of what happens when dating apps go right, but those who don’t think about cybersafety can experience something much worse.

Hackers and stalkers utilize fake profiles and bots to trick unassuming users into sending them personal information, including cell phone numbers, that are then used for insidious purposes. Montgomery said he came across many fake profiles when he had Tinder.

“You match with them, they would just instantly message you and say like, ‘Hey, honey…what’re you doing tonight?’” Montgomery said. “It was just scandalous things like that.”

Kevin Metcalf is Washington County’s Deputy Prosecuting Attorney and an internet safety expert. He said dating apps allow someone to easily pose as someone else to trick users.

“You don’t know if this is actually a 21-year-old woman or a 35-year-old guy,” Metcalf said. “You don’t know who is it you’re talking to, really.”

When a user sends his or her personal phone number over the application, the person on the other side of the screen can then use it to access information for criminal means.

“If I’m a hacker, I say, ‘I want to get her phone number.’ Well, now I have her phone number,” Metcalf said. “Then I can take her phone number and go to the internet, and if I know what I’m doing, I can find out where she lives, I can find out her family members, I can find out where she works.”

Metcalf said a VoIP number, or virtual phone number, can eliminate many risks associated with dating apps. Someone can download a third-party application that supplies a phone number and email that are separate from his or her personal number, and this creates a wall of separation for protection purposes.

“MySudo is an app, and I think they have a free version or at least a temporary version, and that gives you a VoIP phone number and an email address,” Metcalf said. “So, let’s say you’re on these dating apps, and you get some stalker who won’t stop calling you, you just change your [virtual] number.”

Other similar apps include WhatsApp, CoverMe, Free Tone and Viber.

Montgomery said people should be leery about who they message over dating apps. While it worked out for him, it could have gone differently had he not been perceptive to misleading profiles.

“Say that the right person for you is on Tinder, and you think it’s a bot, just go ahead and swipe left on the account,” Montgomery said. “If there’s the right person there, you’ll find them eventually. That’s just how destiny is.”

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