Online dating surges amid coronavirus crisis

Online dating services, such as Tinder and Bumble, have seen a surge in usage and messages exchanged by users amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The use of online dating platforms is on the rise as COVID-19 sweeps across the country, a study released Tuesday shows, and California residents are the No. 1 most at-risk for online romance scams.

According to the study, published by Social Catfish, an online dating investigation service based in Southern California, several online dating services have seen a surge in messages exchanged by users.

Bumble, an online dating platform, has reported a 21 percent increase in messages sent by users in the United States, and an even bigger increase in geographic areas where coronavirus is most prevalent.

In San Francisco, which Tuesday reported 622 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 9 deaths, Bumble messages have increased by 26 percent, the report said. Messages exchanged in New York City have increased by 23 percent.

Both cities are enforcing stay-at-home mandates. The study said this has led many singles to seek companionship online.

“Since most of us are legally obliged to stay at home to flatten the curve, singles are trying to find alternative methods to obtain a partner,” the study said. “Because of this, they have turned to online dating more-so now than ever.”

Bumble has even used the coronavirus outbreak in a new advertising campaign encouraging users to swipe left or right. The ads say social distancing does not equal loneliness.

According to the study, online daters were scammed out of $362 million in 2018, a 70 percent increase from the previous year. Romance and catfishing scams are bound to go up this year, especially in states reeling from the coronavirus outbreak, the study said.

Data show more than 2,200 California residents were victims of catfishing scams in 2019, more than any other state in the country. These scams involve a person creating a fake identity on social network accounts and targeting victims for abuse, deception or fraud.

Florida came in No. 2 with nearly 1,400 victims, followed by Texas with 1,300, New York with 930, Pennsylvania with about 610 and Washington with some 550 victims.

Of the 16,400 catfishing victims throughout the U.S., 31 percent live in states hit hardest by the spread of COVID-19.

“If you are in these states and looking to online date to keep from being lonely, be careful and make sure you are talking to the person you think you are talking to,” the report said.

Usage among other dating platforms is on the rise as well. According to the report, Tinder, an online dating app, is reporting an increase of 10 to 15 percent each week among American users.

In Italy and Spain — two countries hit hard by the spread of COVID-19 — Tinder usage has increased by 25 percent.

According to Social Catfish — which uses images, phone numbers, emails and job information to verify the identity of people connected online — daters should look out for common catfishing signs.

These include someone wanting to move fast in a relationship, refusing to video chat or requesting money.