It’s Valentine’s week, and if you are a queer single like me there’s a good chance you too have the “app itch”. Tinder use was expected to increase by 20 percent this Valentine’s Day as singles turn to the app in a last-ditch attempt to find a date; an Adjust report claims that on 14 of Feb ‘21, installs of dating apps had a 14% increase!
Queer folk face a real challenge in the online dating world. While we are more likely to use online dating apps because of reasons like privacy, not being out, lack of access to spaces where one can meet other queer folks, or living in society with homophobic laws, the very same reasons lead us to face disproportionate catfishing and cyberbullying, when compared to heteronormative folks.
Catfishing happens when someone takes on a fake identity online with the intention of manipulating you or luring you into doing something you wouldn’t normally do.
Catfishers range from bored young kids that want to troll you to skilled cybercriminals that want to steal your financial details or money. Victims of catfishing find themselves at an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and even paranoia as a result. For the LGBTQ+ community, catfishing can also pose physical security risks.
World over, there are numerous cases where Grindr has been used to catfish queer folk into blackmailing situations, financial robbery, physical assault, sexual assault and even bigoted killing sprees.
Here are some checks that you can do before you dive deep into the talking stage with someone on an app:
🚩 Run a reverse image search.
It’s the easiest way to spot a catfish. If their picture is a stock image or if its another person different than who they’re claiming to be, report them on the app and cut off contact immediately.
🚩 Be wary if they make a move too fast. Proclaiming their undying love after a few chats? Making long-term plans after a couple of weeks? Giving you cute pet names after a couple of days? These are classic signs of a romance scam.
🚩 Look the person up on other social media. It’s an easy method to check if you’re talking to a real person. Be careful not to overdo it though. Don’t become a cyberstalker and find out their favourite cousin’s name before the first date 🤨
🚩 Propose a FaceTime call or a video chat. Scammers and catfishers refuse to video call. Usually this is because they’re impersonating someone they’re not. But at the same time, some people might be genuinely shy – so you’ve gotta check for more than one red flag to be sure.
🚩 Be careful where you meet. When meeting strangers, it is generally advised to go to crowded well-lit places. My personal rule, meet first in a place where I can get us both on a CCTV cam, just in case. But for a lot of Queer Muslims this isn’t always a viable option, especially if your country has anti-LGBTQ+ laws. In that case, let someone you trust know where you are at all times, and don’t be afraid to back out if you feel unsafe. Send them your live location or share the person’s pictures with this trusted person, in case of emergency.