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Online dating schemes

Online dating scams and how to avoid them,CFG: Secondary Menu

A romance scam, also known as an online dating scam, is when a person gets tricked into believing they’re in a romantic relationship with someone they met online. In fact, their other  · Here’s how the scam usually works. You’re contacted online by someone who appears interested in you. He or she may have a profile you can read or a picture that is e  · By Megan MurrayLast updated on January 18, July 8, Share. It’s an unfortunate reality that as the popularity of social networking and dating sites has grown so Our friends at We Love Dates have contributed a guest blog on a serial dating condition which many are sadly suffering from called, “Online Dating Addiction.”. Most people sign up for an ... read more

En español. A short message sent on a Thursday evening in early December , under the subject line: Match? Check my profile. Later, when she puzzled over their relationship, she'd remember this.

She had contacted him, not the other way around. That had been a fateful move; it made everything easier for him. But she didn't know that yet.

So much of this was new. It had been over two years since the death of her husband of 20 years; four, since she had lost her mother. Two sharp blows that had left her alone in her late 50s. The marriage had been troubled; he was abusive. His cancer took him swiftly, before she had time to process what was happening.

After the funeral , a grief counselor told her to make no sudden changes in her life for at least a year, and she followed that advice. Now she was all by herself in a house secluded at the end of a long gravel driveway.

In the summer, when the trees leafed out, you couldn't even see the road or the neighbors. Amy didn't feel isolated. She'd grown up here, in a conservative pocket of Virginia. Her brothers and their families lived nearby. When it came to meeting new people, however, her choices were limited.

Friends urged her to try online dating. And, reluctantly, she did. At first, she just tiptoed around the many dating sites, window-shopping in this peculiar new marketplace.

The choices were overwhelming. It wasn't until the fall that Amy was ready to dive in. The holidays were coming, and she didn't want to face them alone. She signed up for a six-month subscription to Match. com, the largest and one of the oldest dating services on the Web. She filled out a questionnaire and carefully crafted her profile. It would have been easy to burnish the truth, but she presented herself honestly, from her age 57 and hobbies "dancing, rock collecting" to her financial status "self sufficient".

The picture — outdoor photo, big smile — was real, and recent. And her pitch was straightforward:. Looking for a life partner … successful, spiritually minded, intelligent, good sense of humor, enjoys dancing and travelling. No games! In those first weeks, she exchanged messages and a few calls with men, and even met some for coffee or lunch.

But nothing clicked — either they weren't her type or they weren't exactly who they said they were. This seemed to be one of the problems with online dating. She resolved to be pickier, only contacting men who were closely matched — 90 percent or more, as determined by the algorithm pulling the strings behind her online search. She didn't really understand how it worked.

Back in college, she'd studied computer science and psychology, and she considered herself pretty tech-savvy.

She had a website for her business, was on Facebook, carried a smartphone. But who knew exactly how these online dating services worked?

Then she saw this guy, the one with a mysterious profile name — darkandsugarclue. The photo showed a trim, silver-haired man of 61 with a salt-and-pepper beard and Wayfarer-style shades. He liked bluegrass music and lived an hour away. More than a week went by with no answer. Then, this message appeared when she logged on to her account. How are you doing today? Thank you so much for the email and I am really sorry for the delay in reply, I don't come on here often, smiles I really like your profile and I like what I have gotten to know about you so far.

I would love to get to know you as you sound like a very interesting person plus you are beautiful. Tell me more about you. In fact it would be my pleasure if you wrote me at my email as I hardly come on here often. He gave a Yahoo email address and a name, Duane.

Some of the other men she'd met on Match had also quickly offered personal email addresses, so Amy didn't sense anything unusual when she wrote back to the Yahoo address from her own account.

Plus, when she went back to look at darkandsugarclue's profile, it had disappeared. Your profile is no longer there — did you pull it? As I am recalling the information you shared intrigued me.

I would like to know more about you. Please email me with information about yourself and pictures so I can get to know you better. Duane wrote right back, a long message that sketched a peripatetic life — he described himself as a "computer systems analyst" from North Hollywood, California, who grew up in Manchester, England, and had lived in Virginia for only five months. But much of the note consisted of flirty jokes "If I could be bottled I would be called 'eau de enigma' " and a detailed imaginary description of their first meeting:.

It's 11 am when we arrive at the restaurant for brunch. The restaurant is a white painted weatherboard, simple but well-kept, set on the edge of a lake, separated from it by an expansive deck, dotted not packed with tables and comfortable chairs…. Amy was charmed — Duane was nothing like the local men she'd met so far. And she was full of questions, about him and about online dating in general.

She also mentioned the deception she'd already encountered on previous dates — "lots of false advertising or 'bait and switch' folks," she wrote. I think it is always best to be whom we are and not mislead others. By December 17, they had exchanged eight more emails. Duane suggested they both fill out questionnaires listing not only their favorite foods and hobbies but also personality quirks and financial status.

He also sent her a link to a song, pop star Marc Anthony's "I Need You. Amy clicked on the link to the song, a torrid ballad that ends with the singer begging his lover to marry him.

Then she rolled it back and listened to it again. An impostor poses as a suitor, lures the victim into a romance, then loots his or her finances. In pre-digital times, romance scammers found their prey in the back pages of magazines, where fake personal ads snared vulnerable lonely hearts. But as financial crimes go, the love con was a rare breed, too time- and labor-intensive to carry out in large numbers.

It could take months or years of dedicated persuasion to pull off a single sting. That has changed. Technology has streamlined communication, given scammers powerful new tools of deceit and opened up a vast pool of potential victims. As of December , 1 in 10 American adults had used services such as Match.

com, Plenty of Fish and eHarmony. The mainstreaming of online dating is a revolution in progress, one that's blurring the boundaries between "real" and online relationships. AARP has joined this revolution, partnering with the online dating service HowAboutWe to launch AARP Dating in December But the online-dating boom has also fueled an invisible epidemic.

According to the Federal Trade Commission FTC , complaints about impostor ploys such as the romance scam more than doubled between and And that figure is probably low, because many victims never report the crime — or even tell their closest friends and family members that it occurred. Shame, fear of ridicule and the victim's own denial enforce this contract of silence.

The power of the romance scam — its ability to operate undetected and to beguile its victim into a kind of partnership — lies here, in the gulf between what the victim believes and what is actually happening. Outside the scam, it's almost impossible to explain such irrational behavior.

How on earth could you hand over your life savings to a stranger you met on the Internet, someone you've never even seen in real life? When Amy talks about how she fell in love, she always mentions his voice. It was mesmerizing — musical, clipped, flecked with endearing Britishisms. His writing was like this, too — not just the British-style spellings of words such as "colour" and "favourite," but the way he dropped "sweetie" and "my dear" into every other sentence.

They exchanged numbers and began talking every day. His teenage years in Manchester explained the accent, but there was another sound in there, too, a wisp of something she couldn't place. They spoke of the things you talk about at the beginning of a relationship — hopes, dreams, plans for the future.

She opened up about her marriage, her grief, her work, her faith and her conviction that things happened for a reason. Amy had never met a man who was so passionately curious about her. And she was just as fascinated by Duane. Or was it Dwayne? In his early emails, the spelling seemed to switch. She found his LinkedIn profile — it was short, with just a few connections.

There were other curiosities. Amy felt they were in some kind of time warp. She would be fixing breakfast and he'd be talking about going out for the evening. He traveled a lot for his work, he said. Almost casually, he explained he was calling not from Virginia but from Malaysia, where he was finishing up a computer job.

Looking back, would things have been different if he'd said he was in Nigeria? Amy knew all about those people who posed as Nigerian bankers and gulled victims with awkwardly phrased "business opportunities" over spam email. But this was different; Amy loved to travel and knew lots of people from overseas. The fact that Dwayne was living in Malaysia added an exotic note to his "eau de enigma. Scam central: A former "Yahoo boy" shows how teams of con artists fleece victims from Internet cafes.

Born in neighboring Benin, he and his family moved to Nigeria during his childhood and went looking for opportunities in the emerging economic powerhouse of Africa's most populous nation. Instead, he found "the game" — Nigeria's shadow economy of scams, named for the article in the Nigerian criminal code that deals with fraud.

Enitan is not the scammer Amy encountered in ; his fraud career ended in , he says. Since he left scamming, he's spoken out against the practice. But based on his account, the fraud playbook he followed has not changed. He agreed to talk on the condition that he would not be identified by name. Typically, scams are advance-fee frauds — variations of the age-old "Spanish prisoner" gambit, which promises riches to unsuspecting strangers in exchange for a modest payment.

Sent first as printed letters, then as faxes and emails purporting to be from Nigerian officials, these offers are now part of Internet lore. Indeed, they're so well known that ers have adopted a more effective variation — mining dating sites for targets of romance scams.

Impostor scams can flourish wherever the Internet exists Eastern Europe and Russia are also hot spots , but most dating fraud originates in Nigeria and Ghana, or in countries such as Malaysia and the U. In fast-developing parts of the world with high unemployment, a large percentage of English-speaking young men, and a postcolonial legacy of political instability and corruption, playing the game can be a tempting way out.

That's when he drifted in with the legions of other young Nigerian men known as Yahoo Boys, named for their preference for free Yahoo.

com email accounts. He learned the con from an older mentor, and he, in turn, passed on his skills to younger friends. Enitan describes a three-stage model. Using stolen credit card numbers, the scammer would flood dating sites with fake profiles. Victims can be found anywhere — scammers also forage for connections on social media — but dating services provide the most fertile territory.

Profile photos are pirated from social media or other dating sites. To snare women, he'd pose as older men, financially secure and often in the military or in engineering professions. For male victims, he just needed a photo of an alluring younger woman: "Guys are easier to convince — they're a bit desperate for beautiful girls.

All his victims, Enitan says, described themselves as divorced or widowed. Ideally, the prospective victim makes the first move. Grooming the victim begins in the second stage. After learning everything he can about his target, he would launch a campaign of love notes and gifts.

It feels like the universe is manifesting my perfect partner right before my very eyes. Prayers answered and yes it does seem like we have known each other a long time. Amy wrote that seven days after receiving the first message from Dwayne. They were on the phone for hours every day at this point. His was the first voice she heard in the morning, and the last before bed.

Typically, Amy would talk and text with him until about 11 a. Around 8 p. In their emails, they filled pages with minutiae about their lives — her upcoming holiday trip to Sarasota, Florida, with a girlfriend; his visit to a textile museum in Kuala Lumpur. Mixed amid this were Dwayne's increasingly ardent declarations of affection:. Last night, in my dreams, I saw you on the pier.

The wind was blowing through your hair, and your eyes held the fading sunlight. Florid passages like that did not spring from Dwayne's imagination. He cribbed them from the Internet.

Still, on Amy those words cast a powerful spell. That's how she thinks of it now — it was like a switch flicked in her head. She'd been in love before. But this was different, a kind of manic euphoria. Are you real?

Will you appear someday. Or are you just a beautiful, exotic dream … if you are … I don't want to wake up! At the core of every romance scam is the relationship itself, a fiction so improbable that most of us initially marvel in disbelief: How do you fall in love — really fall in love — with someone you never meet? Until the term "catfishing" crept into the vernacular, love affairs with digital impostors were little-known phenomena.

The term comes from the documentary film Catfish , about a man with a girlfriend who, we learn, does not exist; it later inspired an MTV series. Pretending to be someone else online is a social media parlor game among some young people. But Amy had never seen the show or heard the term; she had no idea the practice was so common. In her book, Truth, Lies and Trust on the Internet , Monica Whitty, a psychologist at the University of Leicester in the U.

Computer-mediated relationships, she says, can be "hyperpersonal — more strong and intimate than physical relationships. Research has shown that certain personality types are particularly vulnerable to romance scams.

Unsurprisingly, age is a factor: Not only are older victims more likely to lose larger sums of money, there's evidence that our ability to detect deception declines with age. But when she surveyed scam victims in the U. These people tended to describe themselves as romantics and risk takers, believers in fate and destiny. Many, like Amy, were survivors of abusive relationships.

Women were actually slightly less likely to be scammed than men — but were far more likely to report and talk about it.

The other term that Amy would later learn is "love bombing. In both situations, the victim's defenses are broken down by exhaustion, social isolation and an overwhelming amount of attention. Amy would later describe the feeling as akin to being brainwashed. This is the painstaking grooming process that Enitan calls "taking the brain. When she came home from her trip to Florida over the holidays, Amy found a bouquet of flowers waiting for her, and a note:.

Not long after this, slightly less than a month since his first contact, Dwayne brought up his money troubles. A popular scam involves sites that ask you to create a profile specifically to mine your information.

answers to common security questions. You may receive an offer for a free premium membership or some other exclusive perk in exchange for completing a survey that contains similar questions to those used for banking. You should never reveal any information that can be used to access private or financial details, no matter what incentives you are being offered.

This is one of the common Tinder scams. It involves an email or text asking you to verify your Tinder account. The message may claim that Tinder is updating its records and asking you to verify your account.

In other iterations of the scam, an online Tinder match may ask you to verify before engaging in any future communication. In these examples, the scammer encourages you to click on a third-party link to verify your account.

Once you click through, you'll be asked for personal data like your name, address, phone number, email, Social Security number, birth date, and even your bank account or credit card details. Tinder does include verified accounts, but this is done in-house at Tinder. To get the blue check-mark next to their profile name, users are directed by the app to take a series of selfies, which are then compared to the photos on their profile to check they match.

Malware is a common threat online, including on dating sites. On Tinder, for example, a match may have several exchanges with you and then offer you further information on their personal web page or even fake Facebook or Instagram profiles. These pages aren't legitimate, however. Instead, you're being directed to a web page that contains malware and spam that can allow scammers to steal your personal data, leading to identity theft and financial fraud.

Generally, whenever anyone on an online dating site is keen to direct you to another site, it should be considered a potential red flag. This is where the scammer encourages the victim to send their contact details in exchange for intimate photos of the scammer. A young woman contacts the victim to say she cannot remove the gold from her country since she cannot pay the duty or marriage taxes.

Needless to say, the scammer never arrives. Scammers are skilled at playing on emotions and grooming their victims over time. Narratives that often appear in online dating scams include:. You often hear the terms catfishing or catfish scams in relation to romance fraud. Catfishing refers to someone creating a fictional persona or identity on a social media or dating site to target a specific victim.

Besides financial gain, catfishing motivations can sometimes be simply to cause distress or harm or possibly enable the perpetrator to carry out a fantasy or wish fulfilment. The term derives from a MTV documentary called Catfish. Regardless of platform or app — Facebook catfish scams, Instagram dating scams, Plenty of Fish scams, Snapchat meetup scams, and so on — warning signs of online dating scams include:.

They try to move you off the dating app or site quickly:. This is because online dating apps often have customer care teams who monitor strange behavior. If they notice a user sending the same message to numerous users, or other unusual activity, they may flag it as suspicious.

To avoid this, scammers try to move you to another platform such as WhatsApp or similar. The discussion turns romantic very quickly. A common trend in catfish scams is for the imposter to get very serious very quickly.

They may bombard you with extravagant compliments and claim to be falling in love with you. Victims usually report that this shift occurs early on. The scammer asks you a lot of questions about yourself. This is because the more they know about you, the easier you will be to manipulate.

The scammer will spin a tale about him or herself as well and may invite you to start talking over the phone.

This stage can last for weeks, even months. If someone is telling untruths, it can be easy to forget what they have said before. Also, scammers sometimes operate in teams, with different people hiding behind one identity. Catfish scams use attractive profile pictures to keep the victim hooked. Often, these are pictures of actors or models or perhaps even a stock image.

A reverse image search will show if their profile picture has been used anywhere else on the internet. To check, you can run suspicious text through an online search to see if any matches come up. People who are scammed generally report that the other person made constant excuses to avoid going on camera.

The obvious reason is that they don't look like the person in their profile picture. They also want to avoid being identified to prevent being tracked down afterwards. A common theme in catfish scams is for the imposters to create elaborate stories involving illness, family tragedies, or major accidents that generate sympathy and help to postpone a face-to-face meeting.

If your potential date has a life story that seems unbelievable, it could be a scam. Fraudsters try to cultivate long-distance relationships because it means they have an excuse not to meet their target. This gives them time to groom their victim and obtain their trust.

The stories they tell will include a reason that makes it challenging to meet in person. Or else they arrange to meet up with their target, only to cancel at the last moment.

All the grooming and manipulation — which may take weeks or months — is leading up to a request for money. They may give various reasons but, needless to say, your answer should be no. Romance fraud is often under-reported since victims can be too ashamed or embarrassed to tell people once they realize they've been fooled. Different jurisdictions around the world will have different agencies to which you can report a romance scam — for example:.

If you have lost money, you should also contact your bank as soon as possible to explain what has happened. In general, an important way to stay safe online is by using a comprehensive antivirus solution, such as Kaspersky Total Security , which protects you against hackers, viruses, and malware.

Online dating scams often prey on vulnerable users. However, by understanding common catfishing scams and how to avoid fraudsters, you can bypass romance fraud and forge genuine connections instead. Romance scams are on the rise.

We use cookies to make your experience of our websites better. By using and further navigating this website you accept this. Detailed information about the use of cookies on this website is available by clicking on more information. Skip to main. Home Home Security Resource Center Threats. Online dating scams and how to avoid them. What are the most common online dating scams?

Once a scammer has you hooked, the possibilities are limitless, but here are some of the most well-known variations: Military romance scams With military romance scams, fraudsters may use the name and likeness of an actual soldier or create an entirely fake profile.

This just grazes the surface of online dating scams statistics. Oftentimes, a romance scammer starts on dating sites or apps. But scammers have increasingly begun on social media , too. After connecting with the victim through a fake profile, they'll strike up a conversation and start building a relationship by regularly chatting with them.

Once the victim starts to trust the romance scammer and believes they have a truthful relationship, the cybercriminal will make up a story, ask the victim for money, and vanish.

How can you identify a scammer? Well, you probably have a sense of what's considered normal behavior online. But it might be hard to see through an online dating scam when emotions are involved.

If you want to know how to tell if someone is scamming you online, here are some telltale signs a cybercriminal may be the one sweeping you off your feet. One of the first giveaways of a romance scammer is their background. Fakers often pose as someone who is stationed abroad to create a reason for why they can't meet in person. Some common stories include:. A legitimate dating profile usually has plenty of photos of the person in different situations, with one or two that show the person's whole body, not just part of their face.

The individual might also include links to their Instagram or Facebook accounts. In contrast, a dating profile might be fake if the person doesn't list any details. Or maybe their interests and hobbies just about exactly match yours — the similarities might be too good to be true.

Romance scammers want to act fast before their targets catch on to their tactics. For this reason, they like to gain your trust right out the gates. Some common approaches include:. Many online dating sites offer some safety features, and if you move your conversation off them to talk using text messages or other chat options, you lose them. Plus, the person will have your phone number, which could make it harder to cut communication.

Romance scammers want to keep their identities a secret. One way to keep you from questioning their identity is a promise to come visit. They may even have you pay for plane tickets or other travel costs. But they'll cancel at the last minute, providing an elaborate reason for why they can't see you after all. A romance scammer may ask you to send money for things like:. An alternate money scam to watch for: They may send you money!

This could rope you into a "money mule" scheme, whereby the scammer asks to deposit money into your bank account, distribute the funds to other people, or deliver packages. In fact, these requests could be tied to money laundering. These are ways to get cash quickly while remaining anonymous. Plus, the transactions are hard to reverse. Once you send a little bit of money, they might even ask for more.

Online dating scams can often end with victims losing money and, in some cases, even being pulled into criminal activity. Besides the financial costs, there may be emotional costs, too. You may feel heartbroken, depressed, or embarrassed after someone you trusted scammed you. Simply knowing how a romance scammer operates can help you identify and avoid one. Remember some of the red flags and lies romance scammers tell:.

A few basic cybersecurity best practices can help protect you against internet scams. Consider that the more you share, the more scammers know about you — and know how to lure you. For this reason, consider keeping your online dating profiles anonymous by using different usernames on sites or even different emails to protect your privacy. Also, be careful what you make public on social media. The internet can be an incredible place for community, developing friendships, and sometimes even relationships.

For this reason, set up a phone or video chat early on in your communications with an online love interest. If they dodge the opportunity, they may be a romance scammer. These could be used as blackmail later. In the age of social media and online dating, everyone has a digital presence waiting to view. Do your homework on your cyber sweetheart by viewing their social media profiles. If their profile is pretty bare or they have no connections, take it a step further with a reverse image search to see whether their photos are on other sites.

To do this:. Google will show you the websites where the image appears online. If it shows up on a stock photo site or seems to belong to someone else entirely, then it could be part of a scam. Don't give out your financial information, top off a cash reload card, or send gifts or money to someone you haven't met face to face.

Never wire money to a stranger or pay anyone with gift cards. Especially if your other cyber half is located outside of the U. consulate or embassy if they ask for help or money. Always consider the possibility of it being a scam, even if you contacted them first. It may be nearly impossible to recover money after you've been scammed. But reporting these incidents helps federal investigators look for commonalities and may help lead them to perpetrators.

The unfortunate truth is that too many people have been a part of a love story that never ends in a happily ever after. Some of the proof is in these online dating scam statistics. Loneliness — especially during COVID isolation periods — and the development of new technologies have contributed to the rise of romance scams in the past years. Romance scams can affect your emotional wellbeing and sense of trust, and can also be costly and irreversible.

Online dating scams happen all over the world, but certain demographics tend to be more susceptible. Some people associate the use of stalkerware, a software that enables someone to monitor a person's device without their knowledge, with romance scams.

But the two are distinctly different. Romance scams are designed to trick you for financial gain from someone from afar. Stalkerware is used by someone close to you or in a relationship with you to spy on you, and it could put lead to harm.

Like romance scams, stalkerware is also on the rise. Falling in love can be great. But before you let someone steal your heart online, keep these romance scam warning signs and online dating pointers top of mind. Copyright © NortonLifeLock Inc. All rights reserved. NortonLifeLock, the NortonLifeLock Logo, the Checkmark Logo, Norton, LifeLock, and the LockMan Logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of NortonLifeLock Inc.

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Written by Clare Stouffer, a NortonLifeLock employee. February 4, What is a romance scam? Some of the most common online dating scams include these: Fake dating sites : Scam dating sites claim to be legitimate but are actually filled with scammers or underpopulated. These websites are created to mine your information. Photo scams : Scammers will convince the victim to send their personal information in exchange for intimate photos of the scammer. Military romance scams : Scammer will pose as a military member likely deployed.

They build trust by using military jargon and titles, then ask for money to cover military-related expenses, such as flights home. Intimate activity scams : Scammer connects with the victim on multiple social media websites.

Once they become closer, the scammer convinces the victim to undress and then threatens them with the recordings. Code verification scams : Scammers will send a fake verification code through email or text, posing to be a dating app or website.

Once the victim clicks on it, it will ask for their personal information, including Social Security Number and credit cards.

Romance scams in 2022: What you need to know + online dating scam statistics,How romance scams work

Our friends at We Love Dates have contributed a guest blog on a serial dating condition which many are sadly suffering from called, “Online Dating Addiction.”. Most people sign up for an  · By Megan MurrayLast updated on January 18, July 8, Share. It’s an unfortunate reality that as the popularity of social networking and dating sites has grown so A romance scam, also known as an online dating scam, is when a person gets tricked into believing they’re in a romantic relationship with someone they met online. In fact, their other  · Here’s how the scam usually works. You’re contacted online by someone who appears interested in you. He or she may have a profile you can read or a picture that is e ... read more

Now she was all by herself in a house secluded at the end of a long gravel driveway. But when she surveyed scam victims in the U. Finally, he called her. A few days later, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH disappeared. The scammer then reveals their true identity. What is a romance scam?

They spoke for only a few moments before it broke up. Phil show, in which the TV therapist confronted two women who claimed to be engaged to men they'd met online. Please don't show me this again for 90 days. Still, on Amy those words cast a powerful spell. Online dating schemes 25 came and went.

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