Disadvantages of participation in an online chat site may include an increased risk of inadvertently sharing personal information, creating a risk of online attacks to the computer and becoming involved with people making dishonest claims. Online chatting also poses many threats to children, who may encounter predators soliciting illegal behavior.
One potential issue with online chat sites is that users often end up sharing a great deal of personal information with other chat participants, which may increase the likelihood of identify theft among participants. Depending on the nature of the site, users may also experience bullying or other threats from users based on the activity or information they share. Some sites offer free chatting but then expose users' computers to harmful viruses, through either embedded code on the site or downloadable programs necessary to participate in the chat rooms.
Visitors of online chat websites may also experience a variety of personal or financial complications if other participants provide false information or lead them to believe that the other user is someone else. Known as "catfishing," these scams trick users into making financial contributions or other commitments to the perpetrators, believing they are participating in a romantic relationship. The same is true of children, who may think they are chatting with other users their age when in fact they are engaging with adults attempting to engage in illicit acts.