Cybercriminals who specialize in phishing do not miss the chance to feed on those seeking to find love. It’s common for cyber criminals to create attractive fake profiles on dating applications or social media platforms, to lure users into exposing sensitive information or transferring them money.
What are the signs?
1. They ask you for money
Be suspicious of anyone who asks you for financial assistance, no matter how dire their circumstances seem to be.
2. You never meet in person
Typically, a scammer on a dating site or social media will state they live far away to make it logical that they cannot meet physically. They may also avoid video calls by citing technical issues as an excuse.
3. They are quick to call it love
The romance scammer will be quick to fall in love and profess their love. Their goal is to manipulate the victim emotionally as quickly as possible before the victim realizes they’re being scammed.
4. You find few to no images of them online
Authentic dating site users often have multiple pictures of themselves. Romance scammers may impersonate someone else and likely have one or two images of the person they’re pretending to be.
5. They want to move to a more private communication platform
Be very cautious when someone asks for your phone number or email address. This makes it even easier for them to access your personal information.
How can you protect yourself?
1. Use trusted social applications/ websites over unreputable ones
Use social media platforms and dating applications that have been positively reviewed and have a large number of users over those that are less reputable. However, you should still assume cybercriminals are using even the more notable social and dating applications.
2. Don’t share personal details
If you share personal information like your full name, date of birth, photos, videos or a home address with a stranger, you may not know what they’ll do with it.
3. Research the people you meet online to prove their legitimacy
Do a Google search on the love interest so that you can see whether they have an online presence that proves their legitimacy.
You can also do a Google reverse image search to make sure no one else shares the same photo that a love interest may be using. To do a Google reverse image search, go to Google and click on the Camera Icon in the search box to upload the image file or image file link.
4. Do not reveal financial information or transfer money to those you don’t trust
Do not send or receive money, or reveal financial details such as your credit card details, financial status or banking PINS, with anyone you’ve met online, no matter how convincing their story might be as to why they need it.
5. Share what is happening with a trusted friend or family member
Tell a friend or family member about your situation, and discuss your next steps with them. A romance scammer might try to isolate you from friends and family. Don’t let a scammer rush you into making any sort of decision.
What should you do when suspicious, or you have become a victim?
If you are ever suspicious of a user you have met on a social or dating application/ website report them to the application you are using.
Where you feel you have become the victim of a cybercrime e.g., money has been stolen from you or your personal information exposed, report this to the application and other relevant authorities.