Millions of people use online dating sites and apps around the world. There have also been numerous success stories of people finding love and companionship online.
However, with the success of dating apps and dating websites, online romance scams are on the rise post-pandemic with millions of victims. The worst part about romance scams is that the victim is ultimately left embarrassed even to file a complaint.
What are Online Romance Scams?
Online romance scams, also known as dating scams or romance frauds happen when a person believes they have made a connection or match through an online dating site or app. Whereas the person they are speaking with is a scammer with a fake profile.
The scammer manipulates or grooms the other person over time in order to gain their trust in order to either ask for money or obtain enough personal information about them to steal their identity.
People spent more time online as a result of the coronavirus pandemic which prevented in-person interactions. The pandemic made it very easy for scammers to prey on people who needed a companion or someone to talk to.
While anyone can become a victim of a romance scam, old folks often suffer a greater financial loss. Scammers prey on the aged as they are more likely to have assets like retirement funds or homes.
It is estimated that approximately two-thirds of online dating scam victims are women, with a median age of 50. Online dating scams are especially cruel because they prey on people’s emotions.
This analysis discusses common online dating scams, the characteristics of a romance scammer, how to report a dating scammer, and how to protect yourself from online dating fraudsters.
What are the Most Common Types of Online Romance Scams?
The majority of dating scams begin innocently. Scammers may create fake profiles that appear as appealing as possible and then wait for victims to contact them and start a conversation.
They may also contact victims directly, claiming common interests or a distant, mutual connection. Once a scammer has you hooked, the possibilities are endless, but here are a few of the most common:
1. Inheritances Romance Scams
This is when the romance scammer claims they must marry in order to inherit millions of dollars in gold left by a father, uncle, or grandfather. Marriage is said to be a requirement of the male relative’s will.
A young woman contacts the victim and informs that she is unable to remove the gold from her country since she cannot pay the duty or marriage taxes. Once the scammer has established a rapport with their victim, they will ask for money to bring the gold into the victim’s country.
The scammer offers to fly to the victim’s country to prove their legitimacy, and the victim pays for the flight. Needless to say, the scammer never appears.
2. Malware Scams
Malware is a common online threat on dating websites. A match on Tinder, for example, may have several exchanges with you before offering you additional information on their personal website or even fake Facebook or Instagram profiles.
These pages are not legitimate. Instead, the victim is directed to a website that contains malware and spam that scammers can use to steal personal information.
This ultimately leads to identity theft, financial fraud or even both. Anyone on an online dating site who is eager to direct you to another site should be regarded as a potential red flag.
3. Code Verification Scams
This is a very common online dating app scam. It consists of an email or text message asking you to verify your dating app account. The message may claim that your app is updating its records and that you must confirm your account.
In other variants of the scam, an online Tinder match may request verification before engaging in any further communication. In these Online Romance Scams on dating apps, the scammer encourages victims to verify their account by clicking on a third-party link.
When the victim clicks through, they are prompted to enter personal information such as their name, address, phone number, email address, birth date, and bank account or credit card information.
4. Photograph Scams
Such online romance scams ask the victim to send their contact information in exchange for intimate photos of the scammer.
Whereas the scammer is looking for personal information, or it could be a fraudulent bot operation that takes advantage of emotion and excitement to gain access to the victim’s data. Online romance scams can later be used for financial or data theft scams.
5. False dating websites
Scam dating sites are services that claim to offer genuine meetings but are either severely underpopulated or overrun by scammers. Dating sites that ask you to create a profile in order to mine your information are common online romance scams.
Look out for sign-up questionnaires that are light on dating details but heavy on financial questions, or that request information such as your mother’s nickname or your first school (i.e. answers to common security questions).
Some free online dating sites may appear legitimate at first but once you’ve been a member for a while, you will get to know about the world of online romance scams.
You may be offered a free premium membership or some other exclusive benefit in exchange for completing a survey that contains questions similar to those used in banking.
No matter what incentives you are offered, you should never reveal any information that can be used to access private or financial details.
Keep an eye out for an influx of interest soon after you’ve created your profile. If our profile contains no information but you continue to receive messages from potential suitors, you’ve most likely encountered an online dating scam.
Variations in Online Romance scams
While some of these stories may appear unbelievable, it’s important to remember that victims are frequently lonely or vulnerable. Scammers are skilled at playing on their victims’ emotions and grooming them over time.
Excuses that are frequently used in online romance scams include:
- The scammer claims that they require money from the victim in order to pay for flights (or sometimes a passport) to visit the victim’s country.
- The scammer requires the victim to pay their phone bills or purchase a new laptop in order to continue communicating with the victim.
- The scammer requires funds to pay for medical treatment for themselves or a close relative.
- The scammer claims that they have valuables that have been seized by Customs and that they must pay taxes before they can recover their belongings and join the victim in their country.
- The scammer claims that their boss has paid them in postal money orders and requests that the victim cash the forged money orders and wire the money to the scammer.
- The scammer needs money to finish their education before they can visit the victim.
The terms catfishing and catfish scams are frequently used in the context of online romance scams. Catfishing is the practice of creating a fictitious persona or identity on a social media or dating site in order to target a specific victim.
Apart from financial gains, catfishing motivations can sometimes simply be to cause distress, harm, or to allow the victim to fulfill a fantasy or wish.
How To Identify Online Romance Scams?
Regardless of the platform; Romance Scam on Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp have a few loopholes that are easy to identify. Below are a few tactics used by online romance scammers:
1. Scammers Try to Get victims Off the Dating App or Site
Customer service teams on online dating apps frequently monitor unusual behavior. They may flag suspicious activity if they notice a user sending the same message to multiple users or other unusual behavior.
To avoid this, scammers attempt to redirect victims to another platform, such as WhatsApp or something similar. They may say something like, “It’s easier to chat on WhatsApp than here.”
2. Conversation Gets Romantic Quickly
The scammer will become very serious very quickly in online romance scams. They may lavish their victims with compliments and claim to be in love with them.
The scammer claims to feel a special connection to their victim and that they have never felt this way about anyone else. This shift typically occurs early on, according to various victims.
3. The Scammer Asks Various Personal Questions
This is due to the fact that the more they know about their victim. Their information helps the scammers to manipulate their prey. The scammer will tell you a story about himself or herself.
They also invite you to start talking on the phone. This stage can last for several weeks or even months.
4. They Have No Digital Footprint
Some people avoid social media and try to keep as little personal information about themselves as possible on the internet. Whereas scammers do it to hide their identity. If you can’t find any trace of a person online, you should be suspicious.
5. Their Profile Picture Resembles Someone
Romance Scammers tempt victims with attractive profile pictures. These images are frequently of actors, models, or stock photography.
It is simple to determine whether or not the image is genuine. A reverse image search will reveal whether their profile picture has been used elsewhere on the internet.
6. The Text on the Profile is Copied
Romance scammers frequently copy profile text or messages from other websites or dating profiles rather than writing their own. Enter suspicious text into an online search engine and see if any matches appear. If they do, do not respond or message back.
7. They Avoid Meetings or Video Calls
Will a romance scammer meet you in person? People who have been scammed typically report that the other party made numerous excuses to avoid going on camera or meeting in person.
The obvious reason is that romance scammers do not look like the individual in their profile picture. They also want to avoid being identified in order to avoid being tracked down later.
8. They Live Far From Your Place
Scammers try to cultivate long-distance relationships since it allows them to avoid meeting their target. This a common excuse used in online romance scams
This allows romance scammers to prepare their victims and gain their trust. The stories they tell will include a reason why meeting in person is difficult. Scammers also arrange to meet with their target only to cancel at the last minute.
9. Their Life Seems Like a Daily Soap
A common theme in catfish scams is for imposters to fabricate elaborate stories about illness, family tragedies, or major accidents in order to generate sympathy and delay a face-to-face meeting. If your potential date has an unbelievable life story, it could be an online dating scam.
10. They request money from You
It is very clear that you’re dealing with a romance scammer when they ask you for money. All of the grooming and manipulation over weeks or months leads to a money request. They may provide various justifications.
We advise our readers to decline any such requests as the person on the other end could possibly be an online romance scammer.
How to Avoid Online Romance Scams?
- Accept friend requests from people you don’t know when using social media sites.
- Avoid disclosing too much personal information in a dating profile or to someone you’ve only communicated with online. Scammers can use details like your last name or place of employment to manipulate you or steal your identity.
- Use reputable dating sites and keep in touch via their messaging service. Fraudsters will want you to quickly switch to texts, social media, or phone so there is no evidence of them asking you for money on the dating site.
- Take things slowly at first. Inquire about your potential partner and keep an eye out for inconsistencies that could indicate a romance scammer.
- Be wary of messages that are overly complimentary. Enter the text into a search engine to see if the same words appear on websites dedicated to exposing romance scams.
- Don’t get a false sense of security even though you made the first contact. Romance scammers flood dating apps and websites with fake profiles and wait for victims to approach them.
- Avoid sending compromising photos to online strangers. They could be used for extortion.
- If you suspect that the person is a scammer, cut off contact immediately. Inform the dating site or app where you met the scammer.
- Avoid clicking on links or downloads in user bios or messages sent to you that appear unrelated to the current conversation.
- If you to meet a prospective partner in person, notify your family and friends and meet in a public place. It is not a good idea to travel to an unknown place to meet someone you have never met before.
- Never send money, gift cards, or bank information to someone you’ve only met online.
How To Report Online Romance Scams?
Don’t be afraid to speak up in case of online romance scams. Victims of online romance scams are often ashamed or embarrassed to tell anyone once they realize they’ve been duped.
There will be different agencies in different jurisdictions around the world to which you can report online romance scams.
According to the IT Act, cybercrime is subject to global jurisdiction. This means that a cyber crime complaint can be filed with any of India’s cyber cells. Most Indian cities now have a dedicated cybercrime cell.
Victims in India can easily lodge their complaints with concerned authorities through the steps given below:
- Contact the Cyber Crime Helpline at 1930.
- Contact National police helpline number is 112.
- Register a Cyber Crime FIR.
- You can report online romance scams at CERTIn official website.
What Is CERTIn?
CERTIn is the national nodal agency for responding to cybercrime and data breach incidents as and when they occur.
As per the Information Technology Amendment Act 2008 and Section 70B of IT Act 2000, CERTIn has been designated to serve as the national agency to perform the following functions in the area of cyber security:
- Gathering, analyzing, and disseminating data on cyber incidents.
- Cybersecurity incident forecasting and alerting.
- Emergency procedures for handling incidents involving cybersecurity
- Organizing the activities involved in responding to cyber incidents.
- Providing guidelines, advisories, vulnerability notes, and whitepapers on information security practices, procedures, cyber incident prevention, response, and reporting.
Online romance scams frequently prey on casual users. Users can avoid romance fraud by understanding common catfishing and online romance scams. It’s always a good idea to report such scams to the appropriate online dating site or app.
Send the romance scammer’s username as well as any relevant details. Including conversations or any transaction. This might help the website moderators can take action to protect others from being targeted.
If you have lost money, you should notify your bank as soon as possible to explain the situation.
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