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Scammers’ tactics and how to defend yourself

The internet has revolutionised dating, and there has been a surge in adults using apps to find ideal matches post Covid-19 pandemic.

While these apps offer convenience for connecting with romantic partners, they also open the door to online romance scams. Criminals create both deceptive profiles and urgent scenarios to carry out the scam.

How online romantic scams work

Online romance scams are not coincidental. They are carefully planned schemes that follow distinct stages. Research has identified five stages:

  • Baiting victims with attractive profiles.
  • Grooming victims with intimacy.
  • Creating crises to extract money.
  • On occasion manipulating victims with blackmail.
  • Revealing the scam.

In short, scammers do not swindle victims by chance. They plan their actions in advance, patiently following their playbooks to ensure profitable outcomes. Scammers worm their way into a victim’s heart to gain access to their money through false pretences.

Blocking scammers

There are methods that could help users defend against online romance scams.

In experimental findings, my colleagues and I suggest online apps, especially dating apps, implement warning messages. An example would be applying linguistics algorithms to identify keywords like “money,” “MoneyGram” and “bank” in conversations to alert potential victims of the scam and deter scammers from engaging further.

In addition, apps can use tools to detect counterfeit profile pictures and other types of image fraud. By concentrating on identifying scammers’ use of counterfeit profile pictures, this advanced algorithm holds the potential to pre-emptively hinder scammers from establishing fake profiles and initiating conversations from the outset.

How to protect yourself

  • Online dating app users can take precautions when talking to strangers. There are five rules users should follow to steer clear of scammers:
  • Avoid sharing financial information with or sending money to strangers.
  • Refrain from sending private photos to strangers.
  • Pay attention to spelling and grammar because scammers often claim to reside in English-speaking countries when they actually operate in non-Western countries.
  • Use image and name-reverse searches.
  • Confide in family and friends if you grow suspicious.
  • One last piece of advice to empower those who have fallen victim to online romance scams: Do not blame yourself.

Take the courageous step of breaking free from the scam and seek support.

Reach out to your loved ones, trustworthy third-party organisations and law enforcement agencies for help. —The Conversation.

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