New study reveals the role of AI in love and matchmaking, and how the increased use of AI points to greater concern for telling real from fake, with 58% of Americans encountering fake profiles online.
- More Americans (39%) are looking to use AI to write Valentine’s Day missives than last year (26%)
- 30% of men and 27% of women are using AI to enhance their online dating profile, pics, and messages online
- The use of AI in romance creates concerns for discerning real from fake, with a third of Americans (31%) having communicated with a love interest who turned out to be a scammer
McAfee’s second annual “Modern Love” study surveyed 7,000 people in seven countries worldwide and discovered that nearly one in four (23%) Americans are using AI tools to help create photos or other content when dating online. This contrasts sharply with people’s feelings about receiving AI-generated content: Nearly two-thirds (64%) expressed distrust towards potential love interests who used AI-generated imagery and chat bots on their profiles. Further, the prevalence of romance scams emerged with one-third (31%) of Americans saying their conversations with a potential love interest online turned out to be with a scammer.
Despite mixed feelings and experiences, the effectiveness of AI is undeniable: 69% of people reported receiving more interest and better responses using AI-generated content than when they drafted or used their own original content. Additionally, 39% of Americans are planning to or considering using artificial intelligence to write a Valentine’s Card or other messages to a love interest. This sentiment opposes their feelings about being romanced via code: 57% of people said they would be hurt or offended if they found out AI wrote their Valentine’s message.
“The possibilities of AI are endless, and unfortunately, so are the perils. For people who are shy about starting conversations, short on time to craft the perfect message, or whose photos could be brightened, AI offers tools to help enjoy all the fun and excitement that comes with online dating,” said Steve Grobman, McAfee’s Chief Technology Officer.
“Unfortunately, we know cybercriminals also use AI to scale malicious activity. With love-seekers spending more time online leading up to Valentine’s Day, scammers are using AI to pose as love interests to steal money or personal information. We encourage people to balance romantic hope with healthy skepticism, to pause before sharing sensitive information online, and to ensure they use the right tools to protect their privacy, identity, and personal information,” continued Grobman.
Love struck, or scam struck? It can be hard to tell.
Online dating remains pervasive, with 58% of Americans using, or having used, dating websites, apps, or social media to find love. However, the rise of powerful, easy-to-use AI tools complicates the online dating landscape. By leveraging these tools, romance scammers can craft convincing messages and realistic profile images to trick people looking for love online. Nearly half (46%) of Americans said they are unsure or don’t believe they could identify AI-generated love messages.
Those looking for love are often more vulnerable to scams, and cybercriminals use that vulnerability to their advantage by engaging in long and sophisticated attempts to steal from victims. 57% of Americans said they were asked to transfer money soon after meeting a love interest and 30% of these people were asked to send more than $1,000.
These findings underscore the escalating threat of romance scams in the digital dating world and the need for increased online dating security awareness and protection. Notably, and indicating the lengths scammers go to gain access to personal information:
- 1 in 10 (11%) of respondents reported having a love interest ask for passwords.
- 20% were asked to share their birth date.
- 23% were asked to share an intimate photo or video.
- 10% were asked to share a social security number or something similar.
And if you’re not being targeted on dating sites, the McAfee Labs team reveals you still need to exercise caution online with an increase in Valentine-related scams. This includes Valentine-related malware campaigns (25% surge), malicious URLs (300% increase), and a variety of romance-themed spam and email scams (a staggering 400% increase), with the majority focused on Valentine’s shopping and gifts. McAfee Labs expects these numbers will continue rising as February 14 gets closer, urging vigilance.
Scammers aren’t the only ones using AI.
The use of AI-generated images for fake profiles and photos appears to be growing: 58% of people said they’d come across fake profiles or photos that look AI-generated in the past year, on dating websites, apps, or on social media. Specifically:
- 46% of people saw fake profiles or photos on social media platforms.
- 20% of people saw fake profiles or photos on mainstream dating platforms.
- 14% saw fake photos or profiles on chat forums or communities.
- 12% saw fake photos or profiles on specialized dating platforms.
- 11% saw fake profiles or photos on professional networking platforms.
Online dating calls for some modern-day detective work.
In a dating pool filled with an increasing number of scams and AI content, online daters are doing their dating diligence:
- 38% said they used reverse image search on profile pictures of people they’ve met on social media or dating sites.
- 59% of respondents said they often use social media to dig into the background of their potential partners.
- Of those who have done so, 35% said it made their opinion about them more positive, and 23% said it made their opinion about them more negative.
- 13% said doing so made them realize they were being scammed, and 7% said they realized their potential partner had scammed others before.
- 11% said social media sleuthing made them realize their love interest was in a relationship with someone else.
Steps for protecting yourself from online romance and AI scams.
People can help prevent financial and emotional heartbreak by taking the following steps:
- Scrutinize any direct messages you receive from a love interest, via a dating app or social media. One way to spot a scammer is to watch for consistent, AI-generated messages. These are often quite generic or lack substance. Additionally, it’s important to be sure not to click on any links in messages you receive from someone you have not met in person.
- Do a reverse-image search of any profile pictures the person uses. If the search results show that your love interest is associated with another name or with details that don’t match up with what they’ve told you, you may be chatting with a scammer.
- Never send money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in person, even if they send you money first. Scammers often send money to soften up their victim and build trust, so don’t share personal or account information, even if the other person is forthcoming with theirs.
- Talk to someone you trust about this new love interest. It can be easy to miss things that don’t add up when you are feeling hopeful and excited. So, pay attention to your friends or family when they show signs of concern, and take the relationship slowly.
- Invest in tools to help identify online scams. McAfee’s portfolio of products includes innovative protection features, such as McAfee Scam Protection, that detects and protects you in real time from never-before-seen threats and scams – whether that’s dangerous links shared on text, email, search results, or social media. In addition, McAfee recently announced deepfake detection is on the horizon, furthering McAfee’s commitment to use AI to fight AI scams and help arm consumers with the ability to detect deepfakes.
The survey was conducted online in January 2024 by Market Research Company, MSI-ACI via email inviting people 18 years and older to complete an online questionnaire. In total 7,000 adults completed the survey from 7 countries included the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, India, and Japan.
McAfee Corp. is a global leader in online protection for consumers. Focused on protecting people, not just devices, McAfee’s consumer solutions adapt to users’ needs in an always online world, empowering them to live securely through integrated, intuitive solutions that protect their families and communities with the right security at the right moment. For more information, please visit https://www.mcafee.com.