Love At First Text? How To Thwart Romance Scams | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

Someone I know was swindled by a romance scam. At first, she started responding to texts from a person she didn’t know. Then the fake romance turned into theft where she sent the person more than $30,000, which she will never see again. It was an awful situation that didn’t need to happen.

It’s surprising how many people fall for romance scams. According to Biocatch, a cyberfraud prevention firm, “romance scams are one of the trickiest scam types to detect, yet they are increasing rapidly in number: 70,000 people reported a romance scam to the FTC in 2022 hitting $1.3B in losses, with that figure sure to grow substantially in the subsequent years as reporting is available.”

“As AI and deepfake technology matures and continues elevating these scams to become much more sophisticated and convincing, bad actors are now more enabled to use video and audio to create a persona and establish a working ‘identity.””

Although most people don’t report when they are scammed, it’s estimated that 60% of romance scam victims are men. One thing they all have in common is that scammers aren’t interested in romance. They want money.

How do the scams work? I asked Seth Ruden, director of global advisory at Biocatch to break it down:

“After building trust and feigning romantic interest with the victim, the criminal will then attempt to coerce their target to transfer large sums of money from one account to another via an “urgency strategy,” which may include a medical emergency, debt-related emergency, travel necessity or another time-bound matter,” Ruden says.

“Fraudsters target vulnerable individuals, tricking them into transferring funds from one account to another as the victim believes they are romantically involved with the fraudster. Romance scams impact every demographic, both younger and older.”

“Victims believe that they are sending money to a loved one for a genuine reason, and therefore act on the matter of urgency and legitimize the transaction on their end. Malicious actors may use P2P payment systems because reversing or refunding a transaction once it is sent is close to impossible. However, any channel may be leveraged, including wires, digital money transfers, cryptocurrency and even checks (inbound or outbound) or gift cards.”

How does one thwart these swindles? Ruden suggests:

  1. Refrain from accepting money — Don’t take funds from people you’ve never met personally, no matter how well you think you “know” them. Especially if they are checks!
  2. Refrain from sending money after accepting funds — Don’t offer to circulate funds for other individuals, as these funds will frequently “return” as not sufficient from the sending bank and put the receiver’s account in the negative.
  3. Verify who you are talking to — Do reverse image searches on any virtually originated romantic partners, especially since the surge in AI interest and growth in deepfakes makes these technology assets and tools more likely to show in a romance scam.
  4. Identify urgency as a key indicator of a scam — Remember that someone’s urgency isn’t your emergency, as urgency is a very consistent element in romance scams.
  5. Refuse to share personal information — Fraudsters may use the false relationship to get personal information from you, like requests to know your birthday, full legal name, city details and even your banking details.
  6. Use caution with someone you haven’t met in-person — Fraudsters’ catfishing victims with synthetic online profiles may have a variety of excuses to dodge an in-person meet-up or a connection in a public place. Use this as an indicator that they are likely not who they say they are, and keep your information to yourself.

Is it love or larceny? When they start asking for money, love is definitely not in the air, much less in cyberspace.

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National Cyber Security