Valentine’s Day, a celebration of love, can sometimes bring loneliness for those who are single. While the Internet has facilitated connections, particularly through dating sites, it has also exposed individuals to the risk of scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that 40% of scams originate on social media, with an additional 19% on websites or apps. Hence, maintaining vigilance is crucial when engaging in online dating.
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Trevor Cooke, an online privacy expert at EarthWeb, sheds light on the issue of Valentine’s Day romance fraud and offers advice on how to stay protected.
Swift Emotional Bonds
Scammers craft enticing profiles to lure victims, establishing emotional connections at an unusually rapid pace, often professing love prematurely. This swift bonding serves as a warning sign. Exercise caution if someone you meet online is expressing affection within the first few days of your interaction.
After initial contact, scammers typically propose shifting conversations to private channels like WhatsApp, Google Chat, Telegram, or email. This shift from secure dating sites to unmonitored platforms facilitates fraud by allowing scammers to manipulate targets discreetly.
Fraudsters excel at fabricating convincing yet false life stories. Frequently posing as individuals working overseas, they avoid in-person meetings conveniently. By constructing believable personas, scammers emotionally manipulate victims, making deceitful requests for money or personal information appear authentic. Before sending any money, ensure you verify the person’s identity. Utilize search engines like Google to check for additional evidence, such as social media accounts or a LinkedIn profile.
Over time, scammers may create scenarios requiring financial assistance, citing health crises or business emergencies. While initial requests for money may be modest, they often escalate. In 2022, the FTC reported 70,000 people falling victim to romance scams, resulting in $1.3 billion in financial losses. Be cautious if anyone asks for money before meeting in person or having a video call.
Avoid sharing private or compromising photos and videos with individuals you meet online. Scammers might threaten to disclose them unless you comply with their demands for money or explicit content. In such situations, report to the police and resist succumbing to blackmail.
Trevor emphasizes, “Always verify the person’s identity and use a video call to see who you’re communicating with. By staying vigilant, Valentine’s Day can be a joyful occasion rather than an opportunity for criminals.”
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Trevor Cooke is the online privacy expert at EarthWeb. His personal mission is to help keep consumers safe by keeping them informed of privacy tips and common online scams.