With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many people are looking for ways to meet their love online. However, online dating apps are full of bots and hackers who try to win the victim’s heart with the help of social engineering techniques.
For this occasion, Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN, provides tips to protect yourself from falling victim to romance scams.
Beware of Tinder bots
Tinder bots are scripts written to imitate human conversations intended to spam or scam users. Although bots are becoming more sophisticated these days, they usually follow certain patterns that, once identified, can help you avoid them.
There are several ways to identify Tinder bots: 1) they respond immediately, 2) their photos look too perfect, 3) their bio section looks fishy, 4) the person’s Tinder profile isn’t linked to external social media accounts, such as Facebook or Instagram.
Do your research on potential candidates
Scammers’ profiles usually include fake pictures of someone wearing a military uniform or photos of celebrities and porn stars. Scammers use the same scripts with the same common phrases, while their profiles provide a fake birth day, age, occupation, and similar personal details.
Check their social media profiles to make sure their phone numbers, usernames, and social media profiles match the information provided in their profile. Another way to check fake profiles is running a reverse dating image search to see whether the pictures have been reused or even stolen.
“Scammers work hard to win the victim’s trust. Therefore, you can also use scam assistance services to help you expose them. It does all the research for you, and it informs you if the person vying for your attention is not who they say they are,” the digital privacy expert Daniel Markuson adds.
Trust your gut feeling
Dating fraudsters are usually into you too much and too quickly. Watch out for matches who confess their love after a short period of interaction.
“This is a classic tale of romance scamming, when fraudsters are keen to travel a great distance to meet you, but, at the last minute, their plans change and they request money to cover their emergency expenses. Once the money is received, the scammer disappears immediately,” says Daniel Markuson.
Don’t click on suspicious links and offers
While lovers are on the hunt for Valentine’s bargain deals, cybercriminals craft phishing messages offering popular gifts, such as flowers, chocolate, or even a free stay package.
After clicking the link, you might be asked to hand over personal information, which could trigger a malware download onto your device or a ransomware infection. Pay attention to the advertised offers — if it seems too good to be true, there is a high probability of fraud.
Be careful when sharing personal images
Fraudsters may use any compromising material received to blackmail you at a later stage. Be cautious when sending your pictures — sextortion is an increasing risk. Victims are often threatened that their compromising photos and videos of a sexual nature will be released publicly.
“If you experience a case of sextortion, don’t engage with a criminal. Instead, document all the information and evidence, secure your online accounts, and forward it to the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) or other relevant local institutions,” Daniel Markuson advises.
Remember — you can always refuse to chat with a person, whether they are real or not, and when you sense they are dodgy, don’t be afraid to report them. Don’t give out your personal information, never engage in any financial activities with your match, and you’ll be safe on dating apps.