Dating Apps Are Cracking Down on Romance Scammers | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

Romance scams are a growing problem, with the US Federal Trade Commission calling our prolific use of social media apps and the rise of cryptocurrencies “a combustible combination for fraud.” Over the past four years, the FTC has recorded a steady rise in romance scam losses: From $493 million in 2019 to $730 million the following year, to over $1.3 billion per year in 2021 and 2022. The commission notes that, because the vast majority of scams aren’t even reported to the government, “these figures reflect just a small fraction of the public harm.”

Since the inception of dating apps—really, since the inception of dating—scammers have found ways to exploit people’s vulnerabilities and capture their attention with a legitimate-sounding story or just the right amount of social engineering. But to Kozoll’s point, scams have evolved from quick hits—here, click on this link—to long cons that are now often referred to as pig-butchering scams.

Michael Steinbach, the head of global fraud detection at Citi and the former executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Branch, says that, broadly speaking, fraud has transitioned from “high-volume card thefts or just getting as much information very quickly, to more sophisticated social engineering, where fraudsters spend more time conducting surveillance.” Dating apps are just a part of global fraud, he adds, and high-volume fraud still occurs. But for scammers, he says, “the rewards are much greater if you can spend time obtaining the trust and confidence of your victim.”

Steinbach says he advises consumers, whether on a banking app or a dating app, to approach certain interactions with a healthy amount of skepticism. “We have a catchphrase here: Don’t take the call, make the call,” he says. “Most fraudsters, no matter how they’re putting it together, are reaching out to you in an unsolicited way.” Be honest with yourself; if someone seems too good to be true, they probably are. And keep conversations on platform—in this case, on the dating app—until real trust has been established. According to the FTC, about 40% of romance scam loss reports with “detailed narratives” (at least 2,000 characters in length) mention moving the conversation to WhatsApp, Google Chat, or Telegram.

Dating app companies have responded to the uptick in scams by rolling out both manual tools and AI-powered ones that are engineered to spot a potential problem. Several of Match Group’s apps now use photo or video verification features that encourage users to capture images of themselves directly within the app, which are then run through machine learning tools to try to determine the validity of the account, versus someone uploading a previously captured photo that might be stripped of its telling metadata. (A Wired report on dating app scams from October 2022 pointed out that, at the time, Hinge did not have this verification feature, though Tinder did.)

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