Do you use Facebook, Hinge, or Tinder? Are you on eharmony, Match, or Bumble? Perhaps Grindr or OKCupid is more your speed? Even if you don’t use any of these apps, you probably know someone who does. Every day, people use a variety of platforms to seek companionship, friendship, a hookup, or more. No matter your interests, there’s an app with an online community for you. You can make some fantastic connections. However, there is an underbelly to apps known as romance scams.
Romance scams are nothing new. Long before the Internet, apps, and social networking sites, people were misled by frauds hiding behind false façades. Because the quest for love and romance is inextricable from the human condition, there have always been villains seeking to exploit our longings. Cybercriminals have only adapted their tactics for today’s technologically-entrenched world. Schemers regularly aim to take advantage of those seeking companionship, love, or sex.
So, why do scammers exploit human desire? It’s simple. Cybercriminals use romance scams because they work. With the prospect of love, sex, or friendship appealing so powerfully to so many, and the intense feelings associated with human connection, it’s easy for your judgment to become clouded. The psychological forces involved with social networking can intensely impact our emotions. And, when we let our guard down, it’s easier for an unscrupulous person to unleash their malicious intent.
It’s critical not to suspend judgment when adrenaline or arousal is involved. A lapse in thinking makes it easier for cyber criminals to play out their deceptions. Fraud, extortion, theft, loss of PII, and worse are all possible when people fall for a romance scam. In this blog, you’ll learn how to identify bad actors’ tactics and protect yourself from mischief-makers who want to play with your heart. Finding romance and other forms of connection online are possible, and amazing when they happen, but seek them with a degree of carefulness.
It’s not uncommon for someone to pose as a service member with a sexy photo. Often, they’re stationed overseas or many miles away, and they explain how they’re stuck in dire circumstances. They’ll detail a travel, health, or legal emergency that requires money they can’t access. Usually, the victimizer aims to escalate things quickly while seeking maximum sympathy to achieve their objective. The would-be service member suggests that their sweetheart send them a gift card or transfer funds to help remedy the situation. Never fall for these tactics!
More elaborate online schemes can include authentic-looking web pages intended to encourage a victim to transfer sums of money. Falling for this scheme can adversely impact the victim’s personal or business relationships. For instance, interacting with the web page can download malicious software onto your computer that infects the device and allows a bad actor to manipulate your online accounts, business data, and personal contacts. Threats and extortion are expected outcomes in these instances, so be careful!
Using a variation on the SLAM method, which we’ve discussed in our other blog articles for vetting email, can help to protect you against romance scams. As a recap, the SLAM acronym stands for:
S – Sender of the message
L – Links associated with the message
A – Attachments included with the message
M – The contents of the Message
So how does the SLAM method translate for online romance scams? Here’s how:
If you take the bait for a romance scam, you’re not alone. The Washington Post reported last year these schemes are on the rise, and romance scams cost victims over $300 million in 2021. Everyone is at risk, regardless of age, gender, or race. If a fake Romeo or Juliet has fooled you, don’t hesitate to report it to the social network or dating app. Of course, immediately discontinue all communication. Likewise, if you’ve shared financial information with an imposter, contact your bank or credit card company right away. You may also need to contact the police, depending on the gravity of the situation.
With a little common sense, you can enjoy making online connections while protecting yourself from romance scams and a broken heart. Don’t be a fool for love, and don’t get caught with your pants down. Love and companionship don’t need to hurt. For more help with romance scams, perhaps it’s time to consult with a professional cyber security training company? Contact Athreon, one of the best cyber security training companies you can work with to protect yourself and your staff.