Are you dating a scammer?
By Digital News Asia February 8, 2017
- Not everybody on the Internet is whom they claim to be
- Caution and a good measure of common sense are essential when it comes to online dating
BEFORE the advent of internet dating, people used to head to various places to socialise and meet people - bars, pubs, clubs, parties, weddings, places of worship and even the library. It took physical effort and courage to walk up to someone and introduce oneself.
Now, with online dating websites and apps, it has become easy to find a partner or in this case, a match – even from a different country. You can judge if you like the person by looking at their picture and read their profile details to see if they are “your type”.
Computers and servers filter the millions of people in their databases to find the closest match. You’re able to scroll through profiles of people near you on your smartphone and send them a text copied from a Google search you just did, bypassing the effort and anxiety of thinking of what you would like to say to your match.
However, not everybody on the Internet is whom they claim to be.
You might be a guy scrolling through profiles on a dating site when you spot a girl who you might like to date. You send her a message — and she answers. She wants to know you better. But behind that sweet-sounding woman may actually be a cybercriminal who only wants to get your phone number to scam you.
Last year, Russian police arrested two men from Smolensk who pretended to be young, attractive girls, for threatening and tricking men in Moscow into sending them big sums of money. The criminals were found to have earned about one million Russian roubles (US$16,500) with this scheme.
Both men and women, whether single or married have fallen prey to dating scams and ended up losing substantial sums of money. The real figures with regards to romantic fraud are not known as many prefer to keep silent.
There are also instances where website employees behave like scammers because only a few people are registered on the site. They create accounts using pictures copied from the internet. There are bots to lure newcomers into chat and get them to pay to continue the conversation.
According to Monica Whitty, a cyber-psychologist from the University of Leicester as quoted in the DailyMail: “You don’t have to be ‘vulnerable’. You can be a highly intelligent person with a good job. The strategies these fraudsters use are highly sophisticated.”
While installing a reliable internet security suite such as Kaspersky Internet Security 2017 will secure you from malware and malicious links, it will not protect you from a broken heart.
Kaspersky Lab has therefore, put together list of common scams and some tips to ensure that your safety and digital life are not compromised:
Scam: Mutual connection
This is where a scammer contacts you via social channels and claims to have a common interest or mutual connection. If you’re a serial poster of pictures and haven’t updated your privacy settings, it’s easy for cybercriminals to do this.
Tip: If you receive such a claim, dismiss the conversation and never add that person as a friend. Update your privacy settings to share things with only those you actually know.
Scam: Intimate activity
This is a very common scam especially aimed at those in a long distance internet relationship. After an intense courtship, the scammer will ask the victim to connect via webcam and “chat.” The fraudster’s webcam will be mysteriously broken, but they will heap praise on their victim and, with a combination of flattery and persistence, convince their “partner” to partially disrobe or perform other intimate acts.
The scammer then reveals their true identity. They will claim to have made a video recording and threaten to share the video with mutual social media friends or post the recording online, unless the victim sends money. Once the victim complies, the cycle begins and the demands will increase until the victim finally refuses.
Tip: If it involves a webcam and you are asked to perform indecent acts, never ever give in to the demands, no matter what they are. If the relationship is real, then you would wait to meet each other in person.
Scam: Fake dating sites
The Ashley Madison leak offers a glimpse into the world of fake dating sites. These services claim to offer legitimate meetups, but are either severely underpopulated or awash with scammers and bots.
Tip: Look out for sign-up questionnaires that are light on personal details, but heavy on questions about finances. Also watch for an influx of attention just after you’ve created your profile. If all your profile contains is a few lines of text, no photo and no set preferences, but you start getting message after message from potential suitors, chances are you’ve stumbled across a fake dating site.
Other things to pay attention to even on legitimate dating sites include the following:
Suspicious spelling and grammar
If they supposedly come from an English-speaking nation, be on the lookout for awful spelling and grammar. While not everyone looking for love online has the soul and finesse of William Shakespeare, truly terrible grammatical errors and run-on sentences are red flags.
The same goes for emails. Native English speakers have a natural cadence when they speak and write that isn’t easily mimicked. Be suspicious if something seems “off” about the tone or pacing.
If messages and profile descriptions read too well, be worried. Often, scammers won’t bother writing their own material, but instead lift it from other websites or dating profiles. Here, it’s a good idea to run suspicious text through an Internet search to see if any matches come up. If they do, don’t message or respond to this scam artist.
Legitimate users often post links to their favourite bands, travel destinations or hobbies. Scammers typically fill their profiles with links to low-quality “spam” sites that are trying to sell a product or teach you to “get rich quick.” You may also find links to X-rated websites—a warning sign that the profile isn’t entirely legitimate.
While strong feelings often accompany the first few weeks of any new romance, scammers will try to accelerate this process by offering not only a huge volume of compliments and kind words, but also intimate details of their own life that they have “never shared with anyone else.”
What can be even more troubling is if after just a few chat sessions or emails, they ask for a small amount of money to cover strange expenses—perhaps they’re stranded in a foreign country, have a family member in medical distress or have just been robbed, and need money ASAP. If requests for money are ever on the table, walk away.
“As we get closer to Valentine’s Day, everyone, especially single folk will be scurrying to find themselves a date with a potential Mr. or Ms. Right. One of the many ways would be through the use of internet dating sites or apps.
“We would like to arm everyone with knowledge about common romance scams and how to avoid these fraudsters so you can skip the fake romance and seek true love instead,” said Sylvia Ng (pic), general manager, Kaspersky Lab – SEA.
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