Cyber-crime is one of the down-sides of our online lives. Cyber-crime comes is lots of different variations, but the overall objective is to harvest our personal information and to steal our money.
The most common cyber-crime that people encounter is ‘Phishing’. Phishing is when you send a fraudulent communication pretending to be from a legitimate institution – such as a bank or a government agency – aimed at getting the user to unwittingly reveal sensitive information to you or to instal malware on their device or IT system.
However, the type of cyber-crime that has the highest financial impact on individual victims is Romance Fraud.
Romance Fraud is where someone uses online dating or a hook-up app to establish a connection with you, build rapport, and then plays on your loneliness, need for intimacy, or emotional blackmail to trick you into giving them money.
A romance scam doesn’t have to be particularly elaborate to deliver a payoff for the fraudster.
“We have systems in place to try and prevent scammers from setting up profiles, but the tactics are constantly evolving so it’s difficult to avoid determined romance scammers from setting up profiles…” explains John Edwards, managing director of Gaydar. “We encourage our members to report any profile that is raising red flags – that way, we can take a closer look and block anyone that might pose a threat.”
“Romance scammers appear to be very organised…” adds Edwards. “We’ll sometimes see a concentration of activity in a specific country, but generally they’re using a VPN so that makes it hard to pinpoint where they are. Generally, if someone looks and sounds a bit too good to be true, then it’s possible that they’re not who they say they are. The bottom line is, if you’re on a dating app and someone is asking you to send them money – don’t. No matter how plausible the story sounds – don’t fall for it.”
How to stay safe on dating apps and avoid a Romance Scam
- Be aware that fraudsters are actively using romance scams to target LGBTQ people on dating apps, hook-up apps, and online dating platforms.
- If someone looks or sounds too good to be true, make sure that you’re talking to a real person who is who they say they are.
- Profile images often raise a red flag – scammers frequently use images they’ve found online. Do they look like a model? Are they dressed in a military uniform? Is there a dog featured in their photo? Even if their profile has multiple selfies, those photos could all have easily been lifted from someone else’s social media.
- If you start chatting with someone and they quickly suggest moving the conversation to another platform such as WhatsApp – that’s a red flag. Once you leave the dating app message system, the conversation is harder to trace if you have trouble later on. A classic line is “I’m leaving this platform soon…” or “It’s easier to chat on email…” Make sure you know who you’re chatting with before you give them your email or move the conversation off-platform.
- A romance scam is unlikely to immediately ask you for money. They will take time to build rapport with you. Also, the requests might start small. A classic trick is where a guy is super-keen to meet up with you but needs you to send them the money for the train or flight – they don’t show up. Ultimately, whatever the request is for, do not send money to people that you’ve met on a dating app.
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