As more of us move to dating apps in search of the one, a bitta fun, or something in between, The Outmost’s Niamh Griffin warns of spambots and shows you how to stay safe and appy.
The dangers of online dating have long been reported in the media and pontificated on by older generations. ‘There’s none stranger than the strangers on the net.’ We’ve all heard the tale of the lonely lady who met a lovely lad for a shift and glass of Guinness, only to discover he was after something much murkier. As the years passed, the stories grew more sinister. And the secretive nature of many LGBT relationships made our community one of the most at risk.
- Tell a friend where you’re off to.
- Never meet your match in a deserted flat.
- Don’t get so intoxicated you forget the number for 999
At least that *was* the stay safe code. In recent years, new dangers have emerged. Dangers not even coded, when we first chose our five fittest Facebook profilers and wrote a 500-character caption to capture ticks on Tinder.
The early bots were easy to detect. When they first hit Tinder and Grindr, they presented themselves as sex workers. They posed provocatively and were overlaid with fake price lists and links to porn sites or webcam services. Visitors were then encouraged to give credit card details in order to verify their age. Once the site had your credit card information, you were automatically signed up for their expensive premium rate services.
They now use cute girl/boy-next-door-style pictures. The more sophisticated bots have been programmed to mimic a normal conversation. Their scripts are more natural and flirtatious. They respond slower to messages, making them seem more human-like. Instead of simply asking you to visit a site, they engage you in flirty or empathetic conversation then ask you for your number. Often they will pass this data on for a fee.
In one widely reported incident last year, a set of Tinder spambots masqueraded as women to encourage matches to download the mobile game Castle Clash. The profiles spammed users with the promise that they would date the men who could beat them at the game.
Other, less sinister but also annoying fake profiles exist to advertise products. Many do it with the endorsement of Tinder and Grindr. Bud Light, Dominos, and The TV series, The Mindy Project, use Tinder, very effectively, as a marketing tool.
When legitimate advertising is allowed on apps the only way for the user to avoid it is by paying to upgrade to a premium package. However, when criminal spambots occur we should not accept them.
How to spot a Bot!
Bots have no friends and no hobbies
Check to see if you have any interests or friends in common. Bots don’t even pretend to be part of a hiking club.
Avoid the Eager Beaver
If she keenly suggests you click on a link so you can continue your steamy convo, think twice. Most bots will quickly try to talk outside the app.
Beware of the 3ft Stud
Last year thousands of studs appeared on Grindr offering the ride of your life. In a technical flaw, many of the bots were listed as standing less than 3ft in height.
Note the Number
If it’s not your average 085, 086,087, or 089 – don’t text.
Use your Cop On
You’ve never seen that 5ft8 leggy blonde hanging around Crush. Never noticed her at Mother? Well, then she probably isn’t living just 3km down the road and looking to hook up right now.
© 2015 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.