According to the Pew Research Center, online dating in America has surged in popularity since 2013 in every age category. It’s a trend that’s mirrored in the United Kingdom with 1 in 5 relationships now beginning online, but the real hotbed of online dating activity is right here in Canada. Canadians spend more days a month, and minutes a day, on online dating websites than users in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. The Increased popularity of online dating has lured cyber criminals in to capitalize on the vulnerabilities of these users. It’s important to understand how online dating scams work in order to avoid falling victim. Not only will you be protecting your financial security and personal identity, but also the emotional exploitation of your heart.
The most prevalent dating scam is the ‘catfish’. These are people who pretend to be someone they’re not to pursue deceptive online romances. A catfish can be looking to receive direct monetary deposits from their victims, or they may be looking for sensitive information that will aid in the project of identity theft.
Here’s how to recognize a catfish. A catfish will:
- Profess love early. Relationships take time to develop! Be wary of immediate advances.
- Encourage communication on another medium. Many dating websites have certain protections and monitors.
- Send a picture that looks like it’s from a magazine. If someone is attractive it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a catfish. But overly polished pictures that are in line with “ideal” images of beauty should be scrutinized.
- Make plans to meet up but never follow through. Even if they cite a tragic event as the reason and spend considerable time “making up for it” by apologizing profusely, this is a red flag.
- They ask for money. Even if this comes months after initially “meeting”and talking extensively, any bid for financial support is highly suspicious. Reasons are numbered; a family emergency, a tragic event, crime victimization, hospital bills etc. The bottom line: Don’t send money.
Popup ads “online dating sites are a new targeted marketing channel to serve up unsolicited offers and also a popular way to scam people. Around Valentine’s Day, most people are looking for cards, flowers, and chocolates. Scammers are using this as leverage to ultimately download malware onto your computer.
What to do if you have been scammed:
1. Report the scam – these crimes are wildly under reported due to embarrassment over emotionally investing and falling for such schemes. The University of Leicester investigated this subject and found that these crimes are not only more prevalent than expected, but also that there is relatively little user education on this subject.
2. Recognize you’ve been hacked – understand how to identify the many signs that you could have been hacked by clicking here.
3. Run a FixMeStick scan to make sure your computer has not been infected.