Mumbai, February 15, 2023 – Romance scams are on the rise and Valentine’s Day is just one example of when these scams might come to light. But the reality is that scammers are constantly looking to prey on those looking for genuine connections and abuse the currency of trust. Reports from around the globe show a similar trend in the rise of romance scams resulting in losses in the millions. In India, 64% of people fell victim to online scams over the last 12 months and 70% of them suffered monetary losses. India has over 31 million people using online dating platforms and romance scams are widely prevalent in the country. Since the pandemic, over 3,000 cases of cybercrime per month have been reported on online dating platforms in India, a 28% increase since 2019.
Tenable, the Exposure Management company has warned that dating apps are a prime destination for scammers looking to prey on vulnerable individuals seeking romance. Scammers create fake profiles using stolen photographs and pose as someone else. Once connected, they may tout get-rich-quick schemes, especially cryptocurrency investment scams, to lure unsuspecting users into fake investment websites in order to steal their funds.
Pig butchering scams
One of the latest schemes to make headlines is “pig butchering”, which targets individuals across various messaging, social networks and dating apps through wrong-number text messages and fake dating prospects. Pig Butchering derives tactics from romance and cryptocurrency scams that rely on duping victims of money. Perpetrators seek to gain the victims’ trust by developing a fake relationship. The victims are made to believe in false hopes of a true relationship before they are asked to invest in an investment scheme, typically cryptocurrency but may also include Forex or precious metals like Gold — much like feeding a hog before killing it.
Adult dating websites
On dating apps, scammers will also create fake profiles to drive potential victims to external adult dating websites. These websites, which are often seeded with fake users, leverage affiliate programs to help drive traffic. As a result, scammers abuse the affiliate programs to direct victims to create accounts on these websites with valid email addresses, which earn them a modest profit between $2-4 USD. The holy grail is a premium lead, which is where a victim inputs their credit card information into these websites, which can earn a scammer anywhere between $50-100 USD per sign-up.
ChatGPT may fuel scams
Poorly constructed sentences or grammatical errors are one of the few tell-tale signs of phishing emails and dating app profiles. With the prevalence of Pig Butchering scams, ChatGPT could help fill the gap when it comes to writing more convincing profile bios for fake profiles, as it’s easy to spot some fake profiles due to poorly constructed bios. It could also be used to help facilitate scripts used by dating and romance scammers when trying to convince their potential victims to part ways with their money or cryptocurrency.
“For dating app users, it’s increasingly important to remain sceptical, especially when being asked to participate in a get-rich-quick scheme around cryptocurrency or to send money to someone you barely know, said Satnam Narang, sr. staff researcher, Tenable. “Scepticism is the pillar by which dating app users can ensure they don’t fall for the lion’s share of these types of scams. Cybercriminals have become far more sophisticated in their tactics and it’s safer to watch out for red flags — reluctance to meet, emergencies requiring money, fake pictures and more. If anyone on a dating app is trying to get you to invest money into something, it’s a huge red flag. If users do come across a suspicious account, use the reporting tool built into the dating apps to flag these profiles.”
What can users do if they come across a dubious account?
1. If users do come across a suspicious account, they should use the reporting tool built into the dating apps to flag these profiles so providers can remove them ASAP.
2. Don’t ever give money to people on dating sites, no matter how desperate they say they need it.
3. If you’re asked or pressured into participating in an investment opportunity, such as cryptocurrency or Forex by a potential dating prospect, recognize that you are being scammed and report the account and/or block the user.
4. Screenshot photos from Tinder profiles, then drag and drop them into ReverseGoogle Image Search tools like Google Image Search or Tineye to see if they’re taken from an existing source. Scammers love stealing images from various websites.