Bipartisan Online Dating Safety Act Will Help Reduce Dating App Scams That Cost Victims Over $1 Billion A Year
The bill is being led by Republican Rep. Valadao and Democratic Rep. Pettersen
House lawmakers are eyeing legislation to make dating app users more aware of potential scammers who tricked victims out of more than $1 billion in a single year.
Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., is reintroducing his Online Dating Safety Act this week alongside Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Colo.
“While more and more people are using online dating services, recent stories like the Tinder Swindler have brought to light the number of bad actors who abuse these platforms to commit fraud,” said Congressman Valadao. “It is alarmingly easy for predators online to manipulate innocent people, and the Online Dating Safety Act is an important step to help people make informed decisions about who they’re really talking to online.”
If passed the bill would force dating apps and services to send users a fraud notification when they have interacted with someone banned from the app for using a fake identity or using the app to defraud others.
“It is alarmingly easy for predators online to lie about their identity and manipulate innocent people,” Valadao told Fox News Digital. “While we can’t stop all criminals from abusing these platforms, the Online Dating Safety Act is an important step to enhance online safety, combat fraud and help people make more informed decisions.”
Pettersen called dating apps “a new frontier for criminals and scammers looking to exploit vulnerable individuals online and regulations are lagging behind.”
“Notifying users if they have been in contact with a potential scammer is a basic security feature that every online dating service should provide,” Pettersen said.
The Online Dating Safety Act would:
- Online Dating Safety Act would require dating services to provide safety guidelines on their platforms
- Online Dating Safety Act would require services to notify members who have communicated with someone who has since been removed from dating platforms for violating the service’s safety policies.
- Online Dating Safety Act would require online dating services to verify the identification of new users with a government-issued ID.
Nearly 70,000 people reported being the victims of a romance scam in 2022, according to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report from earlier this year.
The median loss was $4,400, according to the report, with total losses at roughly $1.3 billion.
Nearly a quarter of reported victims said the scammer told them that they or someone close to them are sick, hurt or in jail, the FTC report said, making it the most common reason listed.
Forty percent of people scammed said they were first contacted on social media, followed by 19% on apps or websites.
What will the Online Dating Safety Act Require?
According to the Online Dating Safety Act – the online dating service provider shall provide to members of the online dating service a safety awareness notification that includes a list of safety measures reasonably designed to increase awareness of safer online dating practices and clear guidelines and resources for reporting crimes 6 committed by members of the online dating service.
Online Dating Safety Act REQUIREMENTS (Quoted From The Law)
The notification required by paragraph shall meet the following requirements:
(A) The notification shall have a heading substantially similar to the following: ‘‘Online Dating Safety Awareness’’.
(B) The notification shall include the following information (which may be revised or updated to reflect changing information and best safety practices):
(i) An advisory that getting to know an individual through an online dating service may be risky and a member should follow safety precautions when sharing in-formation or meeting in person.
(ii) An advisory that a member should avoid sharing, in the dating profile or initial email messages or other communications of the member, the last name, email address, home address, phone number, place of work, Social Security number, details of the daily routine, or other identifying information of the member.
(iii) An advisory that a member should stop communicating with an individual who pressures the member for personal or financial information or attempts to trick the member into revealing personal or financial information.
(iv) An advisory that a member should not send money to an individual the member meets on an online dating service, especially by wire transfer, even if the individual claims to be experiencing an emergency.
(v) An advisory that an individual may provide false information in a dating profile.
(vi) An advisory that a member should block and report to the online dating service provider a member whose behavior is suspicious, offensive, harassing, threatening, fraudulent, or involves a request for money or an attempt to sell a product or service.
(vii) A request that, if a member is the victim or survivor of a crime, including sexual or intimate partner violence or a financial crime, committed by someone the member met on the online dating service, the member report the incident to the on-line dating service provider and to law enforcement.
(viii) A advisory that, if a member is the victim or survivor of a crime, including sexual or intimate partner violence or a financial crime, committed by someone the member met on the online dating service, the member is not to blame and may seek support through national or local hotlines and other services.
SCARS Analysis of the Online Dating Safety Act
The Online Dating Safety Act is a major step forward in helping to solve a potentially large problem.
An important aspect of this is that it will also include any website or platform involved in online dating, such as Facebook. But, it will not cover other social media platforms that do not have a designated dating feature.
However, the devil is always in the details:
- This will only apply in cases where a profile has been designated or identified as a scammer. Profiles that are regularly removed because of T&C or standards violations (which will still be most of them) will not trigger a notification. So those people who may have been in contact with or are being groomed by online criminals will still never know just like now.
- Even if notified, will most people who are already being groomed believe the notification messages from the dating platform? We think not. Scammers are very good at explaining away things that would be self-evident to people not involved in a scam.
- The best feature of the new law is the requirement for a government-issued ID to create an account. While this is far from perfect, this will be very costly to the dating platforms so they will likely choose to outsource this to one of the major ID verification services which will increase the reliability fo the verifications. If the dating sites try to do the ID verifications themselves then it will still be as flawed as today. However, even though scammers can create multiple fake IDs, it is time-consuming and costly, so this at least will reduce the number of new fake accounts on these platforms by over 99%.
- However, the Online Dating Safety Act specifically states that it is not amending the Communications Decency Act (Section 230). This was a major opportunity lost! The law could easily have amended the CDA to remove immunity for dating apps as a special class without affecting the rest of the Internet. But it is likely this was included to help to assure the passing of the law and to reduce friction ith the dating industry.
- Because of the global nature of these platforms, dating site users outside of the United States will obtain many of the benefits from the law.
SCARS fully supports the new Online Dating Safety Act but we have to wonder about unforeseen consequences. What are we not seeing or anticipating in this law or the responses from the industry, the regulators, and the criminals? However, over all, it is a good, if small, solution to a part of the massive problem.