Fake Profiles, Scams and Oversharing: Norton Survey Reveals Common Pitfalls of Online Dating
Auckland, NEW ZEALAND – 13 February 2017 – Nearly 70 percent of New Zealand online daters have had a negative online dating experience, putting their safety and
personal information at risk, according to new research from Norton by Symantec.
The Norton Online Dating Survey reveals that many online daters have been the targets of scams and people with fake
identities. Scammers continue to use online dating as a way to trick people into handing over money or enter a false
Despite these risks, online daters are taking their chances at finding Mr or Ms Right, with almost a third (31 percent)
finding a partner online. Over half (55 percent) are spending one or more hours on online dating sites every day. The
majority of online daters (51 percent) who have a negative online dating experience simply choose to ignore it. Those
that do take action however, are most likely to block messages (48 percent) or stop using the dating website or
application (38 percent).
Interestingly, the majority of New Zealanders find it hard to identify scammers (53 percent) and 56 percent would like
website/app owners to take more responsibility for protecting them from the dangers of online dating. Reassuringly,
catfishing – being tricked into a romantic online relationship with someone who has a fake online identity – was rarely
encountered in New Zealand (13 percent).
New Zealanders frequently use online research to identify catfishers with over half of respondents becoming aware of a
catfishing scam when they investigated profile details and found they were untrue (51 percent), or found out a profile
image was of someone else (also 51 percent).
“Online dating can be a wonderful service for those seeking love, but these large online communities also make them an
attractive target for scammers,” said Melissa Dempsey, Senior Director, Norton Business Unit, Asia Pacific and Japan,
Symantec. “With the popularity of online dating services on the rise in New Zealand, Valentine’s Day has become more
appealing for scammers looking to cash in on people searching for that special someone.”
“While many do find love online, those that are victims of fake scams and false identities are often left with financial
damage and emotional distress,” added Dempsey.
Common Online Dating Pitfalls: Lies and Oversharing
Many online daters (43 percent) lie by exaggerating or misrepresenting their online dating profiles – usually the touch
up of a photo or some dramatic change in their profile information, to make them appear more appealing and attractive.
New Zealanders admit they are most likely to lie about their income (27 percent), followed by their physical
description, weight and interests/hobbies (all 25 percent). To want/have children (19 percent) was the thing people were
least likely to lie about, followed closely by age (22 percent).
Women are most likely to be sceptical of people’s claims about their relationship status (42 percent), while men are
most likely to doubt people’s claims about their age (34 percent).
Women are less likely to engage in deceitful behaviour: 62 percent of them claim they have never exaggerated their
profile details. Men, younger people (aged 16-29 and 30-44) and those currently dating, are most likely to embellish
their dating profiles.
LGBTI people were, in general, more likely to exaggerate their profiles than heterosexuals, 44 percent of heterosexuals
admitted some deceit, compared to just over 60 percent of LGBTI online daters.
Over one in five online daters (21 percent) are also using online dating platforms to send potentially compromising
photos or videos to strangers, putting them at risk of having images publicly released without their consent.
“Whether you’re in the physical or online world, people should never share images or personal information before they
are sure they can trust the person on the receiving end. Sometimes people in the online world aren’t always what they
seem and while there are many legitimate daters on these sites, it’s important that people are vigilant so they can
enjoy online dating without placing themselves in a vulnerable position,” added Dempsey.
Norton Online Dating Safety Tips
How to spot online dating scams:
• Be wary of individuals contacting you with a sob story, asking you for money. If you encounter any of these
individuals, report them to the service you are using and then block them.
• To help verify the identity of the person that you’re talking to, ask for a recent photo. If they protest or
makes excuses as to why they can’t provide a photo, it is best to err on the side of caution.
• If someone requests a webcam chat, be especially careful about your behaviour. The person can record the webcam
session and they can use it to blackmail you. If the conversation you’re having starts to take an uncomfortable turn,
disconnect the chat.
• Don’t visit links sent to you by people you haven’t talked to for very long. Scammers will pose as a member and
try to get people to click on links, usually leading to porn or webcam sites, and sometimes even leading to malicious
sites that download malware onto your computer.
• Scammers create fake profiles that are run by programs called bots, to get you to click on a link that will lead
to either porn, malware or scam you out of credit card information. It’s actually quite easy to spot a bot, as they have
a set of predetermined “canned” responses. If you notice that the conversation you’re having seems a bit off, or the
person isn’t answering your questions directly, chances are it’s a bot.
Profile Dos and Don’ts:
• Create a username and password that you have not used on any other accounts. Your username can be searched, and
anything tied to that username can come up easily.
• Set up a separate free email account to solely use with your dating account that has a unique name. Most sites offer
their own in-site messaging that protects the anonymity of their members; however, people will often move their
conversations to email or telephone as they get more friendly online.
• When choosing an online dating site or app, be sure to choose a reputable, well-known service. Research the sites
you’re interested in. Some sites allow you to either delete or disable your account. Since users sometimes return to
these accounts are handled. Some dating sites make profiles public by default, which means that they can be indexed by
• Join a paid site. Since members have to pay to communicate with each other, it’s likely that there will be more
legitimate daters and less scammers. Some of the paid services also conduct criminal background screenings.
About the Norton Online Dating Survey
Norton by Symantec commissioned an online quantitative survey through Morar Consulting in October 2016, with 500 New
Zealanders aged 18 and over, of whom 263 had experienced online dating. The typical margin of statistical error is +/-
6.0% in the sample of 263 daters. The survey aimed to understand online dating risks and experiences of New Zealanders.
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