AUSTIN -- If you're headed out for a Valentine's Day dinner, there's a good chance you met your date online. While one in seven Americans have used a dating website, KVUE Defender Andy Pierrotti found its increasing popularity could put you at risk.
Dave Goldey isn't afraid to say what he wants.
"I'm 57 years old. I do not want to be alone," Goldey said.
The Austin bachelor surfs the Web daily hoping to find his soul mate. In fact, he had a date lined-up after we interviewed him.
"Actually, I have a date Wednesday also," he said.
Goldey doesn't mind blind dates because he can barely see himself. He suffers from an incurable genetic defect called retinitis pigmentosa. He’s legally blind and unable to drive or walk straight without the help of a service dog.
"It would be like if you were walking with two straws up your eyes, looking through the straws," Goldey said, explaining his limited eyesight.
Until recently, he relied on Ourtime.com. It’s a dating website that caters to 50-year-old singles and older.
He logged off indefinitely after he said someone hacked into his account two times in three weeks. Hackers changed his profile to say he was rich, windowed and replaced his picture with a different man.
He worried most that hackers may have had gained access to his credit card number linked to his account.
"It really made me mad. It really made me negative about dating sites," Goldey said.
In an email, a spokesperson from Ourtime.com wrote to the Defenders, "While these instances are extremely rare, it doesn't make them any less upsetting. We take these issues very seriously, and do everything we can to protect our members online, by diligently monitoring for fraudulent behavior and taking proactive and immediate measures when we believe an account has been compromised."
Ourtime.com refunded Goldey's money and its spokesperson doesn’t think hackers gained access to his credit card information.
Godley isn't the only one. A KVUE Defenders investigation found an increasing number of dating websites hacked into over the past few years.
The Defenders, along with a security expert, found at least four websites were hacked into in 2012, potentially compromising the personal information of thousands of people. Some compromised websites included MilitarySingles.com and a website called Beatifulpeople.com.
We found two websites reportedly hacked in 2011.
We also discovered a video posted on YouTube to that claims it can show you how to hack into a dating website.
"Sometimes that's just to say 'hey, ‘I'm that smart.' The other people, they're sharing it with may be more malicious," explained Steve McGregory, who works for Ixia, a cyber security firm in Austin.
McGregory said hacking will likely rise as more people look for love online, and as hackers find more creative ways to crack websites.
“Every day, that a scripter or hacker, is sitting there working. They're gaining abilities to get further in. They are sharing that knowledge with others," said McGregory.
Goldey knows the risk, but he doesn't plan to quit online dating until he's found 'the one.' He’s now using a different dating website.
How to protect yourself:
Ixia suggests limiting the amount of information about yourself on dating websites. While it’s important to be honest on dating websites, don’t post your full name, address or other information that could threaten your identity.
The threatmetrix.com has some great advice for consumers on dating websites. Check out its recent blog, “Lookin for Love in All the Wrong Places.”