Interpol has issued a worldwide threat alert concerning the misuse of popular dating apps by cyber criminals to lure people into investing in bogus investment schemes.
In the alert issued this Tuesday, Interpol said fraudsters have been using a number of dating applications to befriend innocent users of such apps and then, over a period of time, making them spend their money on fraudulent financial schemes after winning their trust.
“In the initial stages, an artificial romance is established via a dating app. Once communication becomes regular and a certain level of trust is established, criminals share investment tips with their victims and encourage them to join a scheme,” Interpol said.
Once a victim downloads fake trading applications under the watchful eyes of fraudsters, a new trading account is created in their name and provisions are then made so that the victim can buy various financial products. The victim is also lead to believe that they can reach Gold or VIP status in the investment chain.
Like all other frauds, this investment scheme is also designed in a way to appear as genuine as possible. “Everything is made to look legitimate. Screenshots are provided, domain names are eerily similar to real websites, and customer service agents pretend to help victims choose the right products,” the organisation added.
According to INTERPOL’s Financial Crimes Unit, once the hackers have defrauded users of dating apps, they suddenly stop all contact and lock the victims out of their accounts, resulting in victims losing all their money before smelling a rat. Interpol also said it has noted a significant rise in dating app scams and that users need to be cautious and vigilant while using the same.
Considering that popular dating apps are frequeently abused by fraudsters and cyber criminals to befriend innocent users and con them out of their precious savings, Interpol has the following advice for Internet users:
- Personal & confidential information shouldn’t be disclosed.
- Users need to be vigilant when someone approaches them for financial transactions.
- Avoid transferring money, even tough the request seems to be genuine.
- Check multiple times specially if the investment promises fast amazing returns as mostly, they aren’t real.
- Thorough research like checking reviews, the domain name, the app, the email address, etc needs to be done before any sort of financial transaction.
- If you realise you’ve been the victim of a fraud, report it.
Like Interpol said, this isn’t the first time that popular dating apps have been used to victimise innocent users. In February 2019, security firm Agari discovered a Nigerian fraud ring dubbed Scarlet Widow that created fake profiles on popular dating sites to scam innocent people out of large amounts of money after making them fall in love with the fake profiles!
The fraud ring was found to be adept at creating fake profiles on highly popular dating websites such as March, eHarmony, and OKCupid as well as websites such as Dating4Disabled.com, FarmersDatingSite.com, and DivorcedPeopleMeet.com that were frequently visited by relationship-seekers.
After creating fake profiles in such apps, the fraudsters engaged with people from the opposite gender, gained their trust over a period of time, expressed love for the targeted people, talked about creating the right relationship, faith in God, and finding a person that "understands and respects" the fake profiles.
After building trust with innocent users, the fraudsters sent emails asking for money for reasons that appeared to be quite genuine at first. Even though a majority of such tactics failed, the group succeeded in conning an American man out of $50,000 after trapping him in a long-lasting conversation.