Beware of ‘personal verification’ websites targeted at LGBTQ users who may feel at risk

A website that went live recently is claiming to offer protection for gay and bisexual people on dating apps, but details are suspiciously thin on the ground.

Readers have been reaching out to ask if this website is legitimate, so we looked into it a little deeper.

In the last fortnight a website went live at GBHPid.online, calling itself the Gay and Bisexual Harassment Protection ID.

It claims ‘by getting registered and verified, you can search people and secure yourself’. The details of how this works seem intentionally vague. The site, littered with registration links and stock images, repeatedly uses language that takes advantage of those who may feel vulnerable on dating apps and websites.

‘It only takes your little time for guaranteed security. It really won’t hurt if we are talking about safety, right?’

‘After the unfortunate murder that took place on a Dating Site, Harassment and Protection System ID received media exposure’

During our investigation the only reference to ‘Harassment and Protection System ID’ we could find were cached links to GBHPip.online and mirror websites with similar URLs, titled the ‘Harassment and Minority Protection System ID’ and ‘Harassment and Protection System’.

The website, written with poor grammar, promises this protection system can be found ‘on all global personal dating sites’, but we found no evidence of this.

What’s more, the website has no social media of its own, but does link to Facebook (to Facebook’s official LGBTQ page), Instagram (to news site LGBTQNation), Twitter (a relatively inactive account with no back-link to GBHPID), and YouTube (a BBC interview with victims of LGBTQ hate crime).

Online URL lookup tool ‘WHOIS’ lists as gbhpid.online as having been repossessed by GoDaddy, the host of the website. A representative for GoDaddy told us that in most cases, URL repossession happens as a result of reported fraudulent behaviour.

Although the website claims to be free, it does offer a ‘Premium VIP account’ for $39.99, but doesn’t provide any information on what that includes. Almost all of the links on the site direct to credit card verification where the fine print reads you agree to sign up to a trial of dating websites ‘LoveSexFriends’ and ‘Shine Love On Me’, where the monthly membership is, shockingly, $39.99.

A link offering a 7 day trial to GBHPID goes straight to a PayPal donation page for £10. PayPal’s donor refund policy states that ‘refunds are granted only in exceptional circumstances’, and so anyone tricked by this 7 day trial may have a hard time getting their money back.

The site generously suggests you may want to make a donation to the “Harassment Victim Community Foundation” during the credit card validation, but our research was unable to uncover evidence that this foundation even exists.

Staying safe

It’s always good sense to exercise caution online whenever you’re giving away personal information, especially credit card details. We would recommend staying away from websites claiming to verify your identity or that of anyone else using payment information.

There are plenty of ways to keep yourself safe when dating online, such as meeting in a public place during daylight (advice you’ve definitely heard before), telling a friend where you’re going (we prefer sharing our live location using Find My Friends), or having a friend wait with you for your date to turn up.

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