It’s almost Valentine’s Day and while love may be in the air, sometimes as the J. Geils’ 1980 song explained, love stinks. And I’m not talking about unrequited love, I’m talking about cyber scams targeting romance. These scams have swindled hundreds of millions of dollars out of love-seeking victims year after year.
Dating sites have become incredibly popular and cyber criminals have taken note and targeted users. If you visit any of these sites, here’s what you need to know.
The scam starts with Catfishing. This is when a user makes up a persona complete with fake photos and information. Usually the Catfisher pretends to reside ‘out of country’ making it almost impossible to check up on them of quickly meet. Once connected to a real user, they quickly try to develop the relationship usually leading to a profession of love along with a desire to ‘take a flight to come see you!’ or communicating that they need to pay off an ‘urgent medical bill.’ This is typically followed by a request to be lent some money (typically gift cards or a wire transfer). Or sometimes the scammers request personal info or pictures with the hope of later blackmail.
It may seem highly unlikely to the average reader that these types of scams would be successful, but Catfishing works because the bad guys are using social engineering tactics to create a personal relationship. Once they feel they have developed the relationship, they strike.
So even if you’re not in the market for love right now, we all probably know someone that is or will be. So here are the red flags to look out for:
- The connection confesses their love very quickly
- They start asking for money attached to a crazy or intricate story
- They start asking very personal questions such as financial information
- They avoid video chats or attempts to meet in person
If you suspect Catfishing, try doing an Internet search on the individual, their photos, or their job to see if their story matches up.
Everyone stay safe out there – and Happy Valentine’s Day!