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7 min read

The Brief: Dating app safety with Brenda Guardado of Coffee Meets Bagel

By Katie Zigelman

This episode of The Brief originally aired on March 3, 2020. You can watch the live recording on YouTube.

In 2018, approximately 33.9 million U.S. users accessed online dating services, and the number of U.S. online dating users is projected to reach 37.2 million in 2022. Online dating is a huge market — and that creates a big job for the Trust and Safety department at every single one of these online communities. We wanted to know more — what are popular dating apps doing to keep users safe?

On Episode 6 of The Brief by Spectrum Labs, we talk about trust and safety on dating apps with Brenda Guardado, Head of Customer Experience at Coffee Meets Bagel (“CMB”). Coffee Meets Bagel is a dating app that sends their users select matches once a day at noon for less swiping and more great dates.

Full Transcript

Meredith Reed  0:15  

Hello and welcome to this episode of The Brief by Spectrum Labs. I'm your host, Meredith Reed. This minisode is brought to you for the month of February in honor of Safer Internet Day. The Brief has dedicated the month of February to discussions and activism surrounding the state of Internet safety. 

In addition to bringing you safer internet content like this podcast, we want to share another initiative that Spectrum Labs has started this month: our Safer Internet Day pledge. We're inviting companies with online communities -- like maybe yours -- to commit at least 1% more revenue to trust and safety spending.

Whether that's hiring more trust and safety team members, increasing mental health benefits for your moderators, or buying trust and safety technology, we'd like to encourage you to commit to our pledge. You can find our pledge here. If you join us, we will add your company's logo to our pledge page. 

While you're there, we'd love it if you'd sign up to participate in our inaugural Trust and Safety Report. Thank you for supporting Spectrum Labs’ mission to return the internet to a place of healthy connection, and our efforts to make hate speech, harassment, predators and trolls part of Internet history. 

On this minisode we're featuring Brenda Guardado, Head of Customer Experience at Coffee Meets Bagel, the matchmaker of dating apps. Coffee Meets Bagel is a dating app that sends you select matches once a day at noon, which means less swiping and more great dates. Brenda Guardado leads all customer experience initiatives at Coffee Meets Bagel, which includes fraud operations, content abuse and policy creation. Welcome, Brenda.


Brenda Guardado  2:16  

Thank you so much for that warm introduction. I'm so excited to be here.


Meredith Reed  2:21  

Thank you so much for being here with us today. So just to get started, I want to ask you -- as a company, how does Coffee Meets Bagel approach trust and safety?


Brenda Guardado  2:33  

Safety and trust at Coffee Meets Bagel is actually really big for us as a company. It's a pillar that we spend on and when we are creating new initiatives, we go back to this and see if it's contributing to that goal that we want for our user, which is creating a safe community. 

We know that 86% of CMB community members are looking for long-term relationships. We understand that investing your time and heart on dating apps can be a daunting process. With this in mind, we want to be committed to earning your trust as well as creating a space that protects our community members. Thoughtful daters ensure that everyone who is communicating with you is there for authentic reasons. 

We have really strict CMB guidelines in terms and conditions where we hope that we're designing each interaction to be a safe and enjoyable experience on Coffee Meets Bagel. And failure to adhere to these guidelines that we put [into place] for users could result in you losing access to our platform. 

So trust and safety is really, really big for us because we want to ensure that when you are putting yourself out there in terms of trying to find a relationship, that you can trust that those on the platform are also there with good intentions as well.


Meredith Reed  3:53  

Great. That's so important. I actually online dated back in the day. That's how I met my fiance, so I can relate to some of the types of things that go on on online dating sites. Well, I say “websites” because that was back before they had apps, actually. Speaking of that, fill me in on the present. What are some of the biggest present trust and safety concerns that you see when it comes to online dating?


Brenda Guardado  4:26  

I think so many of our users are looking for relationships -- long-term relationships -- they're more vulnerable to romance scams, and romance scams haven't changed. Over time, the anatomy has been pretty consistent, where it's appealing to people's emotions. 

In regards to romance scam, the first thing a fraudulent user would do would be to create this online dating profile and take on the identity of someone who is real, that you can trust, maybe a military person. Then they claim attributes that inspire other users -- e.g., they are widowed, their wife passed away and they're a single father, they are caring for a sick parent, or they claim to be religious. And then what they do next is they try to spam as many users as possible, meaning they try to “like” everyone and create conversations instantly before they get flooded or blocked from our platform. 

And the next phase is as soon as they do have a conversation going is they'll try to take it offline because, once again, they want to continue it before the they’re blocked and can no longer chat within Coffee Meets Bagel. They’ll typically ask for your phone number or move to another platform such as WhatsApp or Google Hangouts, and then they continue to make this person fall in love. They make bold declarations of love themselves, and they always have a reason for not being able to meet in-person. 

Usually the users “have to go on some sort of trip” and they will assure the person that they’re talking with that they will meet in-person once they're back from their trip. 

And then the ultimate part of the scam. Sometimes this can take a few months to build up, but is when they will make an ask; some financial ask. It can come in the form of [saying] they were robbed and they have no money left, or they are in a medical emergency, or the sick parent that they're caring for is in an emergency themselves. This really begins to pull on the heartstrings of the person that they are talking with. They start pulling out those emotions again, and this is what we see in regards to the top fraudulent activity within CMB. It's just these romance scams.


Meredith Reed  6:49  

Right and I do think we hear a lot about those. Even if they aren't incredibly common, they are incredibly scary. Just not knowing who exactly is on the other end, and also worrying about what might happen to our loved ones if anyone we know and care about comes into contact with somebody like that. 

So how do you empower your users at Coffee Meets Bagel when it comes to trust and safety?


Brenda Guardado  7:18  

We think educating our users is one of the best things we can do. So they can take this knowledge and take it wherever they are in terms of whichever dating platform they use, and utilize it there. 

So within the first few days of the user setting up a profile within the Coffee Meets Bagel app, we will send out an article based off of what we think are online dating safety tips -- some different ways to spot a fraudulent user. We will provide quick tips, such as: never send money, never send gift cards, or never send any account information to matches, especially if they haven't met them in person. 

We will tell them if they are going to meet someone in person for the first time to let friends or family know where they're going, what they're doing, and try to provide their own transportation and meet in a public space. So you just feel more comfortable and safe, especially if this is the first time that you're interacting face-to-face. And we let them know to keep their workplace and address a secret until they've met in-person; until they build more trust over time and they've had multiple interactions. 

We also empower our users by allowing them to cut any chat at any point where they don't feel comfortable. We never would force a user to continue a conversation that isn't contributing to what they are hoping to take out of it, which could be a meaningful relationship. We allow users on various parts of the platform and through all stages of chat to block someone, to report anyone for inappropriate messages or inappropriate content that might have been sent that they didn't ask for. And also any fraudulent users. 

So we want to put that power in the hands of our users to make them feel comfortable in the sense that we are trying to design in our app. They do have the power to end any conversation that isn't contributing to what they want.


Meredith Reed  9:22  

That's great. And that's so important that the user feels empowered and realizes that you're not being mean, you're not being rude. You're just looking out for yourself. Because there are people out there who might not have the best of intentions. 

What advice do you have for other dating apps and brands when it comes to trust and safety?


Brenda Guardado  10:51  

Yeah, so when it comes to trust and safety, I would highly, highly advise you to never stop working on this. It's the most simple and important thing when it comes to meeting new people -- having a foundation of trust. 

That comes from knowing that the platform that you are on is investing in tools upfront to prevent any fraudulent users from getting into the platform and preventing them from interacting with you. When an interaction does happen with the user, you want it to be something that's authentic, that's real, because you have a sense of security that the platform that you're on has done everything within its power to prevent any sort of bad behavior from coming into the platform.


Meredith Reed  11:37  

Great, thank you so much. And I know that was a quick little interview, but that's our minisode! So thank you so much for being here, Brenda, and thank you to all of our listeners. We'll see you next time on The Brief!

Spectrum Labs harnesses the power of data, AI, and community to rebuild trust in the Internet, making it a safer, more valuable place for businesses, consumers, and societies. Spectrum Labs’ AI-based Trust & Safety platform identifies toxic behaviors across languages, text, and voice, enabling Trust & Safety teams to collapse content moderation costs by 50% and increase detection of brand-destroying behaviors by 10x.

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