Following the news that the number of people defrauded in the UK by online dating scams reached a record high in 2016. According to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, there were 3,889 victims of so-called romance fraud last year, who handed over a record £39m. IT security experts from ESET and AlienVault commented below.
Mark James, IT Security Specialist at ESET:
“Sadly the figures are not surprising at all, most criminals are not stupid, they often know just how to manipulate or pressure people into handing over their hard earned money. Generally we as humans want to trust others, when we are lonely and looking for love it can be easier to be fooled into thinking someone cares for us and are showing some honest affection. One of the biggest problems in communication over the internet or mobile devices is we lose that face to face interaction, that body language that tells us something is wrong. All we see are visually pleasing images and words that are represented quite often by our own feelings. If we want company, trust and love that’s what we read, and once we are “in” for a few pounds it’s often quite hard to stop, knowing if we do we have definitely lost that money and more importantly lost the chance that they may actually mean well and be telling the truth.
We have to understand that when on the internet or dealing with others in a non-physical format we should always at the very least question what we are doing, does it sound legit? Could it really be true? And if we do engage in sending money we have to treat it like gambling at the casino, decide on how much you can afford to lose and be prepared to do so, it may be the jackpot, and if it is then you can reap the rewards but sadly in today’s world of scammers and deceivers it’s a more than likely someone else trying to fleece you for all they can.”
Javvad Malik, Security Advocate at AlienVault:
“Alongside enticing people with money, employment, or threats; love is a common vector cyber-criminals use to try and gain peoples trust to defraud them. So, unfortunately, the figures aren’t so surprising.
The problem for many dating sites is that their model is built upon having as many active profiles as possible to attract new customers. So, it’s not in their business interest to be stringent in validating the authenticity of people signing up. In some cases, it has been reported that the dating site itself creates fake profiles in order to lure customers.
However, legitimate sites need to add a layer of user validation, or some form of vetting that can deter fraudsters from setting up multiple fake profiles and spamming unsuspecting victims.
Users should be wary at all times. Obviously, people go on dating sites in the hope of meeting someone. But don’t be fooled by a good-looking profile suddenly expressing an intense desire to become your soul mate. Look for signs such as them being abroad, vague with details, or always too busy to meet or speak on the phone.”