We’ve all experienced the sensation. We match with a dating profile that is a bit too good to be true. Soon thereafter, the telltale signs appear of a fraudulent account. Unfortunately, many users don’t recognize these signs and end up being defrauded out of hard-earned money.
With online dating scams increasing in occurrence and milking users out of hundreds of millions of dollars each year, apps are taking steps to protect users. Scamalytics is one company that is attempting to help make dating safer for users.
How Scamalytics Attempts to Prevent Fraud
Scamalytics was initially conceptualized in 2012 when its founders were chatting at a dating conference. They decided that machine learning techniques could be leveraged to attempt to prevent fraud in online dating by detecting fake accounts.
The core principle behind Scamalytics lies in how dating fraud is perpetuated. Oftentimes, scammers create hundreds of fraudulent accounts to commit their crimes. With a goal of efficiency, these accounts can share similar images or phrases.
Scamalytics partners with dating app companies to use machine learning to analyze newly created user profiles. Algorithms take the data from users and check them for these common phrases and patterns. They also check the user’s IP address, a unique address that indicates what computer or network is creating the account.
These data points are then checked by Scamalytics against their database of known fraudulent IP addresses and other information. If the algorithm determines that a new account could be a scammer, it notifies the dating app.
The goal of this process is to identify fake profiles as soon as they are created. This will enable apps to take action to block or ban scammers, ideally before they are able to defraud real users.
Concerns with Scamalytics
While the mission of Scamalytics is certainly a critical one – dating apps are known to have infestations of scam accounts – there are some concerns regarding its implementation. One of the first things that come to mind is what if a user accidentally uses some of the phrases used by scammers captured by Scamalytics database?
In this situation, a typical user could find their account flagged and be wondering why they are being alleged to be a scammer – or perhaps given no explanation at all. While machine learning algorithms are quite effective, they are known to make errors. And with meaning dating profiles having fairly common phrasing, it would not be surprising to run into this issue.
However, the other concern that arises is the effectiveness of Scamalytics overall. It uses IP addresses as a primary method of detecting fake dating app accounts. On the surface level, this certainly seems to make sense. After all, an IP address can be thought of much as a computer’s calling card. If an IP address is generating hundreds of accounts, it is likely a scammer at work.
However, much as dating apps have services like Scamalytics, scammers also have tools at their disposal. One tactic is simply to employ VPNs that encrypt this data. VPNs serve to mask your IP address. As such, a scammer running a VPN would theoretically be able to easily get around Scamalytics’ extensive database of known fraudulent IP addresses.
Another option is simply spoofing IP addresses. IP addresses are communicated through pieces of electronic information known as packets. When a scammer wants to employ IP spoofing, they change the packet’s information. This can make places think information is being received from a trusted source. It is also fairly hard to detect.
Thus, there are several reasons to be a bit concerned about how successful Scamalytics will be long term. Scammers tend to adapt to technology when money is involved, and there is clearly big money in online dating scams. It is likely that to be successful Scamalytics will have to continue to adapt to changing tactics of those they target.
One of Many Solutions
There is no doubt that Scamalytics provides an important and very needed service. While it will likely prevent some scammers, dating app users should remain fairly cautious and still seek to utilize good judgment in evaluating the intentions of the person on the other end of their matches.
There are many options to hide IP addresses and scammers making fake dating app accounts are likely to continue to adapt and find ways to reach users. Ultimately, the optimal approach is to ensure that all users are educated about telltale signs of scammers.
After all, the mantra of “if someone seems too good to be true, it probably is” certainly applies in the world of online dating. Learning to identify the tactics and looks of fake dating app accounts is a good habit for even the casual dating app user. Scamalytics is likely one of many solutions needed to keep users safe.