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Scam fears for SNS dating

Some abuse dating websites as more singles flock online to find love


A 34-year-old company secretary recently kicked up a ruckus when she posted a question on a website where women chat about their love lives.

The woman, who used an alias to tell of her predicament, said she had met a guy a few months ago ― a very decent guy with a promising career and superb academic background, topped with an attractive physique ― through a social dating site.

All went well right up until this month. The two had become close despite not having yet met offline, as they kept a steady correspondence through texts and Kakaotalk messages, all the while talking endlessly about how to go about their first face-to-face meeting.

That was when the online boyfriend started to get a little weird; he complained incessantly about how he wanted to quit his job and how life was not turning out the way he expected.

Then he hit on her for a loan.

“He is asking to borrow $3,000. I have some money set aside. Should I lend it to him, or is this a scam?” was the secretary’s question who said she was concerned, yet perplexed and anxious as she had never met a man who wanted to borrow money.

Replies began to immediately flood the message board, with many urging her to get out of the “relationship” as quickly as she could.

Some even talked about similar situations that their friends or acquaintances had suffered.

The guy eventually backed off but has been out of contact since, the secretary wrote in a latter post. 
Dating online is always a risk because it is difficult to know how real someone’s online presence is. (The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)/MCT)
Dating online is always a risk because it is difficult to know how real someone’s online presence is. (The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)/MCT)

Digital age date scams

This case is still rare in Korea as the online social dating industry has yet to take off in earnest, but it may signal the start of a whole new way of conning unwary Internet users.

Already, online and phone scams are a big problem here.

The Korea Internet Security Agency said this month that the number of people reporting a violation of their personal information online including through social networking sites as of June this year has risen by almost five times the number of those in 2005.

Due to these problems, in some countries, companies are developing software that completely deletes any information someone has posted on a social networking site, along with their accounts.

A big part of the reason why people fall prey to these scams via SNS is because they are too trusting and leave behind excessive personal information.

“Users usually reveal too much information about themselves and their friends and family when using SNS,” said Bae Woon-cheol, head of the Social Media Strategy Institute.

Social dating is much more risky because unlike many of the existing social networking sites that usually connect people who have already known each other, it is about linking strangers. 

Handled well, social dating has a chance

Advocates of social dating sites, however, beg to differ, claiming that this a revolutionary way of meeting people in an age when many don’t have the time to make the effort offline, or are daunted by the prospect of searching for the “right one” out of a population of 50 million.

The growing number of unmarried Koreans may be proof as about one quarter of Korean households consisted of one person last year, according to government figures.

“It is so hard to meet people in the workplace, one-on-one, so I decided to try my luck with social dating websites,” said one user who declined to be identified. She said she previously had tried to meet people through chat websites but found the crowd a bit too rowdy.

Such distinction in who uses these sites is how the social dating sites seeks to set itself apart from previous matchmaking sites, according to industry watchers.

The way these social dating sites work is that people post their profiles and their likes and dislikes ― such as favorite movies or books ― and the site sets out to find who they believe would be a good match based on those preferences.

One big difference between random chatting and social dating is that the latter is more responsible as it collects “authentic data,” according to the latter.

Another is that unlike the past when online meetings and dates were made possible only between people of similar academic background or social status, more believe in meeting people who share interests and ideas.

Pyo Soon-gyu, head of Echu, a fast-growing dating site with more than 150,000 members, recently told the media that his hope is to create a venue where singles can come to connect with and seek out potential partners in a “free yet healthy atmosphere.”

By Kim Ji-hyun (jemmie@heraldcorp.com)
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