When love becomes a nightmare: Scams on online dating sites and apps.

Next story

The embrace of online dating services, such as dating apps or virtual places to meet people, is a phenomenon that has occurred worldwide. According to GlobalWebindex, in Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region, apps and dating sites are accepted between 45% and 46%, while in the United States and Europe the figure is between is almost 29%.

Currently, more than 40% of single men used an app or a dating site in the last month, says GlobalWebIndex. There are dozens of dating apps available; some operate globally, while others only work in some countries have greater acceptance in some regions than in. But without a doubt, two of the most popular applications among the great offer that exist are Tinder and Happn, which register more than 50 million users each.

Although these apps and sites have the potential to bring great happiness into the lives of their customers, there is a darker side as well: scammers abuse these services to their own nefarious ends, leading to heartbreak both emotionally and financially for the scammers' victims.

Multiple forms of deception

Although they come in different flavors, in most cases the criminals who commit the scams study the profiles of their victims and collect personal information, such as their work activity, the level of income they have or what lifestyle they carry, because, the mismanagement of our personal information in the digital age allows a criminal to build a fairly detailed profile of a future victim.

One of the most common methods is the scammer who emotionally manipulates his victim to send him money, gifts or personal information. Another type of common deception is sextortion, which usually begins as a normal relationship between two people who begin to know each other until the scammer tries to take the conversation off the dating platform, such as, for example, to WhatsApp. Here, the criminal will try to convince the victim to send some risqué photos or intimate videos of the victim ... and then use that salacious material to blackmail the victim.

Last month in the United States a man who was the victim of this type of scam - he related an attack strategy similar to that in a case reported in Chile in 2018 - after having met the person through an online dating site and gained his trust, the scammer requested the sending of intimate photos. Shortly after they were sent, the victim received a message from a man claiming to be the father of a minor and who threatened to file charges against him for sending a child a private image, unless he sent him two cards Prepaid with US$ 300 each. The victim was informed that it was a hoax after he had contacted the police.

Another scam is known as "catfishing", which is luring the victim into a relationship based on the attacker's fictitious online persona.

Scams related to online dating: A global phenomenon

In Australia in 2018 there were reported 3,981 cases of scams related to online dating through social networks, applications or websites, which represented losses of more than AUS$ 24 million; and so far in 2019, 349 cases have already been recorded, which meant losses equivalent to more than one million Australian dollars AU$ 1 million, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reported.

In the United Kingdom, the National Fraud Intelligence Office stated that in 2017 that every three hours a case of fraud related to online dating was reported, while more recent figures from Action Fraud revealed that in all of 2018 more than 4,500 complaints were filed by online romance frauds and it is estimated that 63% of the victims are women, the BBC reported.

Cases from parts of the world 

A case from Spain occupied the headlines of several media outlets when a man nicknamed as the "King of Tinder", was arrested in 2018. Using techniques similar to other fraudsters, this criminal knew his victims through dating apps like Tinder or Meetic, he gained their trust to the point that the victim sent him money after he fed them bogus problems relating to his 'family'.

Recently, in Canada, the story of a young man who spent his life savings to cover debts that his father generated as a result of a "romantic scam" came to light. The father of this young Canadian was a 67-year-old widower who met a scammer posing as a woman, whom he met through the online dating site Match.com. Soon after establishing a 'relationship', the miscreant, who was supposedly also from Canada, began asking for financial help to solve various problems that the scammer was inventing. Over a period of eight months, a total of 19 bank transfers of more than CAN$730 thousand dollars to an account in Malaysia.



LATAM is no stranger to such scams; in 2017, the Argentine media published a scam using Tinder.  After investigating several cases, they reported that victims were contacted by a person apparently seeking a serious relationship living far away.


How to protect yourself

·    Users of online dating sites and apps should bear that anyone can be deceived. Here are some recommendations to keep in mind.

·  Look for inconsistencies; if you find any, be cautious.

·  It is common that after a while (weeks or months) and after having established some confidence, the person you know will tell you a very elaborate story that ends with a request for money, sending a gift or something similar. Remember never to send money to someone you have met in an online dating scenario before getting to know them personally. 

·  Suspect someone who always has an excuse not to see themselves personally.



·  Never share with the person you are meeting, especially if you do not know them personally, information that may compromise you, such as photos or videos.



·  If you decide to meet someone in person that you've met online be sure to set up the meeting in a safe, public place 



 About ESET

For 30 years, ESET® has been developing industry-leading IT security software and services for businesses and consumers worldwide. With solutions ranging from the endpoint and mobile security to encryption and two-factor authentication, ESET’s high-performing, easy-to-use products give consumers and businesses the peace of mind to enjoy the full potential of their technology. ESET unobtrusively protects and monitors 24/7, updating defenses in real-time to keep users safe and businesses running without interruption. Evolving threats require an evolving IT security company. Backed by R&D centers worldwide, ESET becomes the first IT security company to earn 100 Virus Bulletin VB100 awards, identifying every single “in-the-wild” malware without interruption since 2003. For more information visit www.eset.com or follow us on  FacebookYouTube, and Twitter.