by K. Paul, Feb 2019
Romance-related scams are now the most costly form of online fraud, the Federal Trade Commission warned Tuesday.
Losses from dating-related fraud quadrupled in recent years, ballooning from $33 million lost in 2015 to $143 million lost in 2018. In many of these scenarios, people are convinced by strangers they meet online — often on dating apps — to fork over money.
“These kinds of romance scams are very targeted social engineering attacks, effectively ‘hacking’ the victim’s emotions, rather than trying to perform a technical assault,” Nathan Wenzler, senior director of cybersecurity at Seattle-Wash. accounting, consulting and wealth management firm Moss Adams, said.
The number of romance scams reported to the FTC increased to more than 21,000 in 2018, up from 8,500 in 2015. People targeted by these scams reported a median loss of $2,600, according to the FTC. Losses are even higher for older age groups, with people 70 and over reporting the biggest median loss at $10,000.
In a typical scenario, a victim meets someone through a dating website or other online space. The person claims to live far away and asks them to wire money for “emergency” costs like a sick relative, a car repair, or even an airline ticket so they can meet up in real life.
…As more Americans turn to dating apps for romance, the risk of being swindled by fake accounts has also grown. The online dating industry in the US is worth more than $1 billion, according to market research group IBISWorld.
Malware bots prey on singletons swiping through Tinder and other location-based dating apps, in an attempt to trick them into handing over valuable information like bank account numbers or passwords.
…To avoid these scams, the FTC recommends never sending money or gifts to an online sweetheart you haven’t met in person.
Be wary of people who decline to use photos of themselves or speak on the phone.
You can also use Google Image search to copy and paste the profile image to ensure it is not a photo being reused from elsewhere online.
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