In this pandemic, scams are prominent worldwide and many cases can be traced back to the virtual dating world. Because numerous people want comfort and distraction from stress, many opportunists take advantage of the situation, which may result in really bad outcomes. But if a potential victim spots the common hints, they may be spared of a dating scam.
The two important hints associated with dating scams were unveiled by Psychology Today, a US-based weekly magazine. Identifying signs of fraudulent information and acts of deception could unravel the pathway to a scam. These signs could easily be confirmed through video call services. However, people must be cautious of such services they never heard before being offered by their romance interest.
Virtual Romance Encounter: Signs of a Dating Scam
These days, staying at home seems to be an excellent idea. This is because the COVID-19 disease remains without a cure or vaccine. While many people have no choice but to leave their homes to work, some are given an option to work from home. With that alternative, individuals may be able to finish their duties early. They may able to multitask as well. Either way, they have the time for some virtual romance. With the stress from the pandemic, everyone wants some kind of distraction.
Unfortunately, not all online dating settings are harmless. There are certain cases wherein opportunists blackmail victims with nude media, while others involve people pretending to be lovers to rob victims of money. For the latter example, several signs can highlight a pretender's true intention. The potential victim simply has to be smart and cautious to avoid being deceived. So, detecting these signs can help filter scammers.
The first thing users need to do to confirm the identity of prospects online is to establish if their profiles are fake. Profile photos are easy to fake through several means, such as using photos from existing accounts or photos from non-social media platforms. Moreover, photos of a real account holder are unlikely to be limited to profiles only. If their account has existed for years, there is a good chance that the user uploaded several photos. The more natural the photos, the more likely that the profile owner is real.
Location services on apps and social media platforms can be utilized as well to confirm identity. But there is a weakness when it comes to reliability. Through several methods, a pretender can fool GPS systems to fake their actual location. To know if they truly live in a specific area, try asking questions that only people in that area will know. Use slang to find out if the prospect has lived in that area for years.
Furthermore, people with genuine profiles typically link multiple social media platforms. Although linking several platforms can be prone to security issues, the link establishes that the accounts are owned by a single entity. Most genuine accounts are also active, and even if the activity is not much, there is a noticeable pattern in how they often post something.
The second important thing users should do is detect lies between conversations. The beginning of unraveling deception is to converse via a video call service. But never make a video call using an unknown service, especially if offered by the stranger. There is no telling what that service can do to the device. It may be a service filled with malware and waiting to be downloaded to steal critical information.
If the stranger agrees with video calls, the user must now concentrate on possible grave lies in between words. Of course, the stranger will not reveal everything to the user as well, but if their intention is to lie and steal money, they are bound to make inconsistent statements. For instance, a doctor currently deployed in a clinic or hospital is likely busier than an average worker. It means they lack the time to reply frequently. If they reply instantly and often while on duty, then there is something wrong with the scenario. It is either they are lying or there are no patients around, which may be rare with COVID-19.
If the user asks about the unfilled social media account, the stranger may claim that their previous account was hacked, their phone was lost or robbed, or they forgot their password, which resulted in a brand new account. Whatever the reason is for creating a new account, real people tend to fill in the blanks and upload fresh content to let their social circle know of their new account. This is one of the known ways to tell their social circle to block the old account. Blocking the old account can help protect their circle from possible threats.
Finally, never agree to quit the dating app or website. Many opportunists do this to avoid being reported. The idea is to victimize more people without getting blocked from the platform. The same idea also helps them dodge cybercrime units of law enforcement agencies.
Romance Scams: Number One in Reported Losses
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an independent US agency, the thirst of people for romance created a pool of victims for opportunists and threat actors. In 2018, Consumer Sentinel Network of the FTC confirmed over 21,000 reports of scams all related to dating and romance. The total value of losses was equivalent to $143 million. That was higher than the losses from any other consumer fraud type identified by Sentinel in that year. In comparison, the estimated total of romance scams reported to the Sentinel in 2015 was only 8,500, which had a total value loss of $33 million.
In 2019, the impact of romance spams in the financial lives of people surged even higher than in 2018. The total value of losses was $201 million based on the reports to the FTC. That was about six times higher than the value of loss in 2015. As such, the FTC advised people to beware of the golden signs of romance scams: confessing love quickly, claiming to be overseas for business or military service, asking for financial aid, luring the subject out of the dating platform, planning to visit yet hindered by emergencies, and requesting money for emergencies.
People who are feeling great because of a love interest online should never forget to be wary of things. There is nothing wrong with feeling positive when talking to that individual. But to avoid getting disappointed in case it is a scam, speak with close friends to objectively discern the ongoing romance. It is better to be safe than sorry.