Watch Out, New Study Shows Scammers Are Swarming Social Media | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

Online scams are more prevalent than ever, with phishing attacks up 40% in the last year according to a recent Kaspersky Labs study. These common scams try to trick you into giving away money or information with fraudulent websites, emails, and messages.

But scammers are getting more savvy: gone are the days when you could reliably spot a scam because of a suspicious-looking webpage or poorly formatted email from a Nigerian prince. These days scammers can convincingly disguise themselves as friends on social media, potential dates in dating apps, or even customer service representatives. Generative AI has helped scammers, too, with tools that can create fake images and videos, making fake digital identities that can seem very convincing – and those false identities may be able to talk you out of your money or your data.

According to the Kaspersky study, dating sites have become a particularly busy space for scammers: 42% of users have encountered a scam on a dating app and 24% have fallen victim to such scams. Romance scams are big business for fraudsters, who convince a victim of their affections and then convince them to send money – perhaps to buy a plane ticket visit or to cover a medical expense. According to the FTC, reports of romance scams went up fourfold from 2016 to 2020, and the latest data from Kaspersky suggests such scams remain commonplace.

Read more: Investment Scams Surge: New FBI Report Warns of Record Losses

Investment scams are another growing category, in which someone convinces you to invest in a sure thing… only for you to lose every penny. While dating scams have an average loss of $2,500, investment scams can take people for their entire life savings. These scams may also start by meeting someone on a dating site or another social media site, where you may think you’re just chatting with a new friend – but eventually conversation will turn to money. Social networks of all types can host a hotbed of scammers: users see fraud on Facebook (38%), Facebook Marketplace (35%), Instagram (25%), and even online gaming platforms (17%). Essentially any platform where you meet and talk to people online is an opportunity for a scammer to deceive you.

Read more: Sellers Beware of this Facebook Marketplace Scam

What surprised me in the study is that fewer scams were found in places you might expect them: online banking (15%) and online sports betting (14%), services where people are already dealing with money. But scammers seem to be focused on social, avoiding services handling money – and where you might be more wary. Instead, phishing attacks are more common on social platforms where scammers can pretend to be someone else and charm you out of your cash.

While you shouldn’t automatically distrust everyone you encounter online, you should be wary if anyone asks for sensitive personal information or money. Whether it’s a romance scam or an investment scam, modern fraudsters are trying to gain your confidence, so you’ll give them what they want without thinking it through. So, if someone online is pressuring you to send them money, take a step back and ask yourself if you really know this person. Try doing a search on their name, or a reverse image search on their profile picture to see if it turns up as someone else – a sign that a scammer may have copied or stolen someone else’s online identity. It isn’t a surefire way to spot a scam – modern AI tools make it easy to create new, fake profile pictures and social descriptions – but seeing if someone you’re dealing with more of an online presence than just their dating profile can help you figure out if they’re just faking it. If you’re in any doubt, don’t send money.

If you believe you’ve been the victim of a scam, stop talking to the person immediately and report the scammer to both the platform you encountered them on and the FTC.

[Image credit: social media scam concept generated by OpenAI’s DALL·E]

Elizabeth Harper is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience covering consumer technology and entertainment. In addition to writing for Techlicious, she’s Editorial Director of Blizzard Watch and is published on sites all over the web, including Time, CBS, Engadget, The Daily Dot and DealNews.

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National Cyber Security