There are plenty of “phish” in the sea this Valentine’s Day.
Today may be the day of love, but cybercriminals are looking to break more than just your heart this Valentine’s Day. They likely want to break into your bank accounts or get access to other personal information.
Netflix recently released a documentary called, The Tinder Swindler. In the documentary, an individual by the name of Simon Leviev conned an estimated $10 million from victims across Europe. He would meet his victims on a dating app called Tinder. He used real images of himself, but he consistently changed his alias and crafted false stories of his background. After developing a relationship on the dating app, he would then meet the women, start-up an in-person relationship with them, and from there ask them to open up credit cards in their names and send the credit cards to him. His storyline was that he was in danger and his accounts were being tracked by criminals who wanted to hurt him, so he needed their credit cards in order to leave the country for a while. The dating app (Tinder) reportedly banned Leviev and his other alias’ from the site. But that’s not to say there aren’t hundreds if not thousands of individuals just like the “Tinder Swindler” looking to scam you this Valentine’s Day.
Phony Online Dating Profiles
The online dating industry is worth an estimated $3.677m. That’s a lot of money. And where there is an opportunity, there is likely crime. “Romance scammers” are creating fake profiles on real dating sites and apps. The scammer is looking to build an online relationship with the target, make up a story, and ultimately ask the target for money.
In this scam, users will create fake accounts using actual images that they find online or stolen images from real social media accounts. This type of cybercrime is actually big business and criminal organizations will even script multiple storylines to be given to the users running this scam. The storyline might include a fake name, address, and a sob story of some kind to get intended targets to trust the profile is that of a real person, simply looking for love.
How to Avoid Getting Scammed by A Romance Scammer
If someone you met online is asking you for money or for you to purchase gift cards, you are likely being scammed. Wiring money and gift card transactions are difficult to reverse and it’s easy for the scammer to remain anonymous once they have received the funds. A good rule of thumb is to never send money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in person.
If you aren’t sure if someone is scamming you, you could:
- Do a reverse image search using the person’s online photos
- Compare information they gave you like phone numbers and area codes to the location they told you were in
- Google the individual to see if job titles, location, and other information match
- Search for the person on social media or other platforms and double check that their information aligns with what they shared with you
If you’ve paid a romance scammer:
- Report it to the The Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov
- Cut off communication with the person to avoid any further theft
The Federal Trade Commission received 56,000 reports about romance scams in 2021 from victims who were conned out of nearly $550 million (WA Post). If you are using a dating website or platform of any kind, be wary of “romance scammers”. This Valentine’s Day, learn more about how you can increase your cybersecurity posture and protect yourself against online threats. Visit our website criadvantage.com/cybersecurity.