India’s LGBT Identity Theft Problem: Stalkers Lurk Grindr App

Indian members of the LGBT community are raising concern on the increasing harassment and identity theft incidents involving gay dating apps like Grindr.

Grindr, a popular dating app mostly used by the LGBTQ community, allows users to be anonymous but at the risk of being phished since some accounts are inauthentic, researchers reveal. Other accounts thriving in the app were intentionally made to phish people out and gather their personal information to copy their identity.

In a report, gay users in India were said to be exposed to numerous identity theft incidents after a prospective date on Grindr. One of these users said in an interview: “My number was given to random men, and I got like 15 to 20 phone calls, Whatsapp texts and video calls in a day. It really freaked me out.”

Grindr and Twitter are increasingly becoming dens for stalkers who are, for instance, notorious to being identity thieves with some even become drastic to the point where mental and even physical abuse comes up.

These apps may help the users to find a prospective partner for a relationship, but the design of the app itself exposes the user to too much abuse, several Indian users echoed.

“Apps like Tinder let you connect to Instagram only if it’s your account. But on Grindr, I can put anyone’s Instagram username, and it will show up on my profile. It’s like the app makes it easy to let people cheat or create fake profiles,” says a user who, for confidentiality, refused to publish his name. When the user started using the gay dating app, he found nothing suspicious about the application and the people he matched, people, who looked regular and not very suspicious, “But while chatting I understood that he knew a lot about me,” he added.

Stalkers were able to know almost everything about their target person: his hometown, his residence, even the company where he works. The stalker also knew meticulous information about him. He knew his circle of friends and even where certain events in his life transpired, say where he celebrated his last birthday.

“He knew very specific details. Something like how my washroom looked, even. But he was not revealing his identity. In my curiosity to know who this person is, I ended up giving my number to him.”

As soon as Indian users give their number, that is where they will know that what they did would be a terrible mistake. Hours after providing a Grindr match his number, a user said he received various phone calls from different random individuals. Phone calls coming from unknown men and even lewd messages on his Whatsapp account.

This kept on going for a whole two weeks. “The worst part was that I could not figure out who this person was. It was hard for me to understand why someone would want to do this. It was not a prank anymore. It was bullying. Bullying by someone without a face,” he says.

This is not only happening in India. In the United States, a New York man who said that his former boyfriend used the app to post fake profiles, in a harassment campaign triggering a stream of 1,000 men approaching the victim with indecent proposals and sexual invitations sued Grindr for enabling harassment.

In a statement, Grindr said they are “sorry to hear of these issues occurring in India.” A spokesperson of the application said that they are committed to creating a safe and secure environment for the LGBTQ community, asking the users to report and block those fake users.

Any fraudulent activity is a clear violation of our terms of service, and something we take very seriously. We encourage our users to utilize the in-app reporting functionality, and reports of inappropriate activity will be reviewed by our moderators and customer support agents, who then remove offending profiles as appropriate,” said Grindr.

We can’t stop what had happened, but there is always room for improvement. The apps, by design, allow fake profiles to lurk within them, but Grindr promises to change this. The security procedures are being taken care of.

Grindr has promised to solve and make their platform better to prevent future abuse. This also goes to other dating apps in the future. Identity theft and online abuse could be prevented with the right measures.

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