Online dating scams cost $201 million per year: how to recognize a catfish


According to the The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), online dating scams are on the rise.

 In 2019, victims lost $201 million to romance-related scams, which is 40% more than in 2018. It’s also more than any type of consumer fraud.

Most online dating scams are initiated via social media or email. The scammer will claim that there is some sort of connection: for example, that you’ve met in a large conference, wedding, concert, or other large gathering.

Statistics show that online dating scams are highly effective and profitable for cybercriminals. Therefore, they put a lot of effort into disguising their true intentions. However, there are telltale signs that your love interest might be a scammer:

Flawless images. If he/she looks like a supermodel in every photo or has only professional pictures in their profile, this might be a sign that their profile is fake. Most catfishers try to lure their victims with beautiful photos, so if it looks too good to be true, do a reverse image


Perfect match. If your love interest has the exact same interests as you, it might be a match made in heaven, or they may have looked you up and are now pretending to like the same things as you to make you like them.

No digital footprint. Most of us leave a large digital footprint, whether it’s an unused account on some website, a school photo, or a lousy selfie. If you’re suspicious about the person, make sure you go through their social media and check whether their friends’ profiles seem genuine. An average person has about 130 Facebook friends, so your love interest is also very likely to be tagged in one of their friends’ photos.

Dramatic life story. Scammers usually have a dramatic life story involving a family  tragedy or illness. They also often claim that they are in the military and create a very strong, fake profile by using military jargon, titles, and base locations. Needless to say, all

scammers live far away, as this is the perfect excuse for not being able to meet you face-to-face.

Avoiding webcams. Catfishers tend to avoid video calls. They might pretend that they don’t know what Skype is or how to use it. The reason is the same as why they don’t want to meet you in person — they don’t look like their profile picture.

They ask for money. Every scammer wants to get to their victims’ money. They will often claim that they need the money to meet you and ask you to cover their visas, flights, and other travel expenses.

Security experts note that anyone who wants to stay secure should follow some basic rules:

Be careful about what you post online. Don’t overshare, as the scammer might use the  information you post online to target you.

Never share your personal information. Don’t disclose your address, ID numbers, credit card details, or passwords. Various researches show that most people still use easy-to-guess passwords. If the scammer manages to get your password, it will be incredibly easy to get access to your personal accounts, such as email, social media, or even financial accounts. Also, using tools such as VPNs can reduce the potential threat.

Be careful if the person starts requesting inappropriate photos. Such requests may turn into sextrotion: the scammer might threaten to make the photo public if you don’t send them money.

Set your social media accounts to private. In many scams, the attacker will attempt to start a relationship by connecting with you via social media. Most platforms let you either set your profile to private or limit the information you want to show. Setting your account to private will give you more control over who can follow you and see your personal information.

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