The risk of online dating

Dr. Monica Narang
These days the extensive online dating has become a trend especially during the Pandemic where maximum work is done from home and it has turned into addiction. People who tend to get involved in such practice spend most of their precious time with the devices, be it laptop or computer or smart phone. They would try to find someone special or true love online to mingle and try to develop relationship. They deceive their partner and very possessive of their phones which is used for dating. The cyber space has become a new avenue to explore so called new face book friends. The rapid development of internet and communication technology offers an alternate mode to search , socialize and Date people of different age groups. While online dating may be a savior for some, but all is not always hunky-dory. The virtual world comes with its warnings. Before swiping right or ‘clicking’ with someone, one needs to be very careful. There is an invisible mask in online communication .The person with whom you are communicating may appear to be very sweet and beautiful. Like you may feel that you have found your lucky charm , but the person on the other side of screen is wearing a mask. But when the personal information like names, address, pictures , etc are shared, leads to bad consequences. According to psychiatrist and counsellor, Dr Pavan Sonar, “Never emotionally invest in anyone until you meet face-to-face. Even if you decide to keep it strictly on an online basis, you are still talking to a ‘ghost’, so keep it basic. Most times, people lie and portray another personality. I know of a young girl who shared sentimental messages with a man on Instagram, who pretended to be younger and single. He was actually married. When confronted, he simply ran away and the girl was devastated. So, always meet a person and then decide. Allowing a stranger into your life has its risks and when someone is behind a screen, it’s quite harder to figure them out.”
One should think for thousand times before adding a new friend . This is something women and men continually fall prey to. Lying is the most hated aspect in online dating. The online daters lie to each other concerning names, appearances, location ,etc. If the financial assets or details are revealed online; it leads to disastrous results. In one of the incidents, a 65-year-old Mumbai resident lost all his savings, including post-retirement funds in a dating website fraud where he registered himself to date women for a year. After registering on the site and being asked to pay a registration fee to enroll as a premium member, he was shown a few women and given a ‘dating package’. The woman in question kept asking for more payments on different pretexts such as insurance, police verification, and more. The unsuspecting victim landed up paying the money he was asked to. The hackers in disguise can extract money or other assets online by creating emotional blackmail.
In India alone, the number of internet users is touching the 500 million mark. Although women account for only 30% of the users.The cyber crime against women are on the rise and they are the most vulnerable group in the cyber world. .
The choice of a multitude of social networking platforms is all the more responsible for endangering women’s safety online. According to a survey, nearly 76% of women under the age of 30 have been the victims of online harassment. It is shocking that revenge porn and sextortion targets every one in ten women under the age of thirty years.
Online dating has come a long way with various dating apps crowding the digital space, “swipe, meet, repeat” may be the new go-to move by the millennials. Many women and girls are being seduced virtually .
In order to curb this menace there are provisions in Information Technology Act where sec. 66D prescribes punishment for cheating by personation by using computer resource and provides that any person who by means of any communication device or computer resource cheats by personation , shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees .
This provision envisages that if a person assumes the character or appearance which he is not really or poses as in reality he is really not especially with fraudulent intention , then the victim can file a complaint before the adjudicating officer under this provision. So there is an action under Information Technology Act , but along with this Act in case of cheating and cheating by personation , it is always advisable to file an FIR under sec 415, 416, 417, 419 and 420 of Indian Penal Code. There is a legal procedure available in Information Technology Act against the fraudster where the victim can approach the competent authority for redressal .
(The author is Sr. Assistant Prof. The Law School, University of Jammu)