Millions of people worldwide have turned to digital platforms to find a potential romantic partner during the past year and a half. Although it may feel like you’re looking for love in all the right places, dating sites, mobile apps, and social networking platforms are filled with con artists after your hard-earned money.
They create fake profiles and contact targets on popular social media websites, including Facebook and Instagram, and attempt to build a trusting relationship by manipulating the victim. The victim loses time and money, and can suffer lasting psychological effects that may jeopardize future romantic relationships.
Warning signs that your cyber sweetheart may be a scammer
The person you meet online seems like the perfect match. They even profess strong feelings just after a couple of interactions. The con artist will make plans to meet you in person and may even propose marriage – but they will never actually tie the knot.
Romance scammers are experienced social engineers who are well aware that love doesn’t come easy and devote generous amounts of time to their newly found love interest, making the relationship seem too good to be true. They’ll often ask targets to switch from the dating platform or app immediately and exchange text messages and voice calls with the victim.
Once they gain your trust (it can take months), they start making up stories and ask for money. It may be little things at first, such as paying for a utility bill and fixing a car, but the scammers eventually start asking you to pay for medical bills, visas and other travel documents.
They mostly use wire transfers or gift cards, which have become a convenient form of payment and are virtually impossible to trace. It’s important to remember that the scammer will never run out of excuses why he can’t meet with you.
If you become suspicious and start denying requests, things usually turn sour immediately. Best-case scenario, the scammer will cease any communication and block you. Worst case, he will begin to threaten to expose sensitive information and secrets you freely shared with him during the relationship and steal your personal information to commit fraud.
Users who go on to dating apps are also targeted by fraudsters who specialize in investment scams. So, after establishing an artificial relationship with the victim, the scammer will share investment tips, encouraging the target to open an account on various trading apps.
Seven tips to protect your info and finances from romance scammers
Romance fraud costs victims hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The best way to protect against it is to brush up on good cyber hygiene practices, stay alert, and treat every new romantic interaction with caution:
Oversharing in the digital world is a major reason why individuals fall victim to scams, fraud and impersonation. Posting responsibly and not revealing too much information are crucial in safeguarding your online persona.
Bitdefender’s Digital Identity Protection tool helps you take control and minimize your digital footprint by continuously monitoring for data breaches, leaks and social media impersonators that may ruin your reputation.
The dedicated online privacy service proactively scans the web for data related to the information provided in the onboarding process (email address and phone number) so that you can start taking more privacy-focused decisions to protect against fraudulent attempts.