Facebook’s news will launch its dating platform on the web on Tuesday did not go down well with anyone. Facebook Dating, which is scheduled to launch later this year, will be an opt-in feature in which the social media site recommends matches based on shared interests and events.
Sure, the news sent Tinder’s parent company’s shares plunging, and it made many people wonder if the world needs yet another dating site. One party, however, took it much more personally: those who have been victims of online romance scams and believe Facebook is complicit.
According to numerous victims who spoke to HuffPost for a July 2017 exposé on online dating scams, an estimated billion-dollar-a-year crime, Facebook has done a lousy job of monitoring its website and keeping it free of scammers.
Scammers steal images from Facebook and other websites and use them to build fake Facebook profiles. They use those accounts to friend people on the web, and if a victim bites, the chat is transferred to WhatsApp or Messenger, all of which are Facebook properties.
Following the creation of a close relationship, the scammer will ask the victim for money to deal with “an emergency.” It will typically be a small sum at first, but subsequent demands for money have resulted in some victims being bilked out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. A Texas woman who helped the FBI lost $2 million as a result of her cooperation.
It’sAccording to psychologists, it’s a con game that preys on the emotionally insecure, and many victims are too ashamed to admit they were duped. According to the FBI, only about 15% of people report scams like these to authorities.
According to victims, Facebook does nothing to prevent the development of false profiles. Our previous reporting revealed how several accounts with similar images were developed and run on the web simultaneously, something that facial recognition technology could quickly identify if Facebook wanted to use it for that purpose.
Scam victims predicted that Facebook’s entry into the matchmaking market would be disastrous.
The moderator of Romance Scammers Exposed, a Facebook community that helps victims recognize stolen images used by romance scammers in West Africa, where many online scammers are based, said, “It’s a train wreck waiting to happen.” The moderator requested anonymity.
“It’s going to be party time in West Africa,” Ruth Grover, who runs ScamHaters, a website that alerts people about online accounts that tend to be scammers, predicted.
Grover told HuffPost that Facebook doesn’t have a good track record in preventing online romance scammers from abusing the web. What makes you think the business won’t be just as casual when Dating starts later this year?
Grover added, “We might as well close up shop and let the world get scammed!” after noting that Facebook’s announcement Tuesday made no mention of protection or identity verification for potential daters.”
“It’ll be more of the same,” she added. Thousands of forged military, engineering, and medical profiles. Except that Facebook will line up the victims for the scammers to pick off.” She called the idea of Facebook matching users with people they aren’t already acquainted with “madness… “This should be named ‘ScamDate,’ since that is exactly what it would be,” he said.
Dr. Steve G. Jones, whose images and identity was stolen by scammers and used to defraud thousands of women, told HuffPost that Facebook needs to do a better job of ensuring that the profiles people are matched with on the upcoming Dating platform are “truly genuine.”
He is well-versed in the subject. Jones’s personal Facebook account was deactivated after several women said he had conned them. Despite this, he claims that at least 20 fake accounts using his images are still active on the web.
So, how will Facebook screen and vet those who sign up for its dating platform to weed out the fakes? Will people making dating profiles use the same photo recognition technology that Facebook uses to recognize our faces and tag us in photos?
“Claiming to be another user on Facebook violates our Community Standards, and we have a dedicated team tasked with helping to identify and block these kinds of scams,” said Pete Voss, a Facebook spokesperson, in response to our questions. We’ve developed several strategies to aid in the detection and prevention of this form of abuse.”
He claimed that spam prevention is an area in which Facebook is “constantly working to improve” and that users are encouraged to report questionable content at facebook.com/report.
Only time will say if Facebook’s dating platform is stable. Indeed, the functionality appears to be profitable for the platform. According to a company press release, nearly 200 million Facebook users disclose being single on their public profiles, and as one of every three marriages in the United States begins online, “Facebook Dating can help create long-term relationships and mimic the way people interact in real life — through the interactions they have in common.”
Of course, who better than Facebook to find our soulmates than Facebook, which already knows more about us than we ever thought possible? Let’s only hope a soulmate is a genuine person.