Everybody lies: What people are lying about on dating sites

Our research shows most users of online dating sites fudge information about themselves. Why they do it and what you can do about it.

Kaspersky Lab and B2B International jointly researched online dating site users’ patterns of behavior and the threats they encounter. We found out what type of information users are prepared to share with strangers and why (and about what) so many of them lie.

Who lies?

In short, most people lie. Of our survey respondents, 57% admit that they embellish reality on dating sites. Married men are the most likely to lie: 67% of them say they lie when filling out their profiles or communicating on the website.

Married users lie primarily to hide their marital status. Outside of that, however, both men and women lie most often about their appearance. And across the board, people lie about age, social status, and the like.

The lies may not surprise you. A survey discovery we found particularly interesting, though, is that liars are more deeply wounded by lies told to them than honest folks are. It seems dishonest users understand better than honest ones how much the truth can change someone’s online profile.

Why lie?

Turns out, many users (16%) present themselves dishonestly in the hopes of looking better to potential partners. In that, they may not be off base. Data from the large dating site OkCupid indicates that men who are rated more attractive by female visitors to the site (i.e., men who are taller, more well-built, and who have a good job) received 11 times as many messages as lower-rated men. The same thing happens with women, in that conventionally attractive (slim and young) female visitors see five times as many messages as “medium” women, and 28 times as many as women judged unattractive do.

If we consider that the likelihood of an encounter grows with more messages received, it’s no wonder both men and women embellish their photos and profiles.

However, it’s not just the desire to find a new partner quickly that inclines people to lie. Some 36% of male research participants lie “just for fun” (31% of women admit to this as well). But the most common reason women lie is fear. Some 34% of female site visitors intentionally falsify information about themselves because they are afraid that real information will be used against them by extortionists and con men. Such fears are not unfounded: 55% of visitors to dating sites have encountered some kind of problem related to their use of the services. Problems can be manifold, from unpleasant conversations to real cyberthreats.

There are other reasons for lying. Many visitors to dating sites and users of dating apps still do not consider them all that reputable and thus don’t want their friends or family to see their profiles. According to our research, 5% of visitors hide their dating activity from their partners, and another 3% try to discover if their partners or spouses are using a dating site or service.

How do we deal with this?

There is no quick fix to this window dressing, unfortunately. Despite the preponderance of false information in profiles, dating sites continue to be extremely popular; 32% of all Internet users use them. In this regard, people on dating sites are significantly more at risk of cyberattacks than other users: the ratio of those who experience threats to those who don’t is 41% to 20%, respectively. An easy explanation would be that these people generally tend to use the Internet more, leading to more opportunities for attackers; however, the volume of falsified information is a danger in and of itself as well.

You can count yourself lucky if someone you’ve been in contact with merely fibbed about their job or age rather than gaining your trust using social engineering and then using the information they gained while talking to you for, say, spear phishing. So, always be on guard when talking with strangers who are a “match” — you now know most of them are not who they seem.