The case of Simon Leviev has raised alarm bells about tricks or maneuvers used by men or women looking for easy money through scams on dating applications. This Israeli man successfully manipulated several women he met on Tinder.
He made them believe that he was the son of a diamond tycoon. Leviev extorted money from them on the grounds that he was being threatened by his family’s enemies in the gemstone business.
In the Netflix documentary called ‘The Tinder Swindler’ (The Tinder Swindler), 3 women recount how they were deceived, in a modality that some dare to call “fraud or romantic scams“. He spoke with Miguel Ángel Mendoza, a Computer Security researcher at ESET Latin America, a firm dedicated to the productive detection of cyber threats.
Mendoza commented that the catfishing modality is becoming more widespread. It is a mechanism in which scammers use false profiles in different applications such as social networks, messaging and, especially, dating with the aim of scamming or abusing a specific victim.
Although he acknowledges that in the first instance it is difficult to identify that it is a false profile, this is because the users of these applications seek to establish a relationship. However, as the communication progresses, signs of a potential scam appear. Hence, the specialist reveals a series of habitual behaviors or modus operandi of romantic scammers.
These type of criminals usually:
• Request too much personal information from the potential victim.
• Be evasive with questions or avoid sharing this type of information.
• Give increasingly elaborate excuses for not seeing each other in person or joining a video call.
• Claim that they live or work outside the country in which the victim is located.
• They claim to be working in sectors such as oil, army or medical.
• Move very quickly in the relationship, declare your ‘love’ in a short time and even make marriage proposals.
•Move the conversation from the dating site or application to a private chat or WhatsApp.
• Have profiles and names that cannot be identified in any other social network.
• Conquest to get money.
Once this person manages to establish a bond with the victim, he reinforces the strategy of conquering her in order to ask for money:
• Tell complicated life stories to argue why you need money. This often includes the need to pay: travel or medical expenses, visas, travel documents, and gambling debts. Also customs fees applied to imported items, among other excuses.
• Request money too soon or open bank accounts with your victim’s money. For them they ask the victim to transfer them, give them a gift card or prepaid money.
• Using accounts to launder money they get from other victims, turning new romance fraud victims into unwitting money mules.
• If the victim refuses, the scammer will continue to harass them until they give in, possibly using increasingly elaborate excuses. It can even reach the level of blackmail when the victim provided sensitive personal information or intimate content.
Martínez recalled that this problem is becoming more widespread in Latin America. Unfortunately, he said, most victims don’t report, especially for fear of scandal or scorn. “Studies in countries like the United States find that romance scams rank eighth on the list of the most reported types of cybercrimes in 2021. But they ranked second in terms of losses, allowing scammers to collect more than US$ 600 million, a figure that exceeded US$ 500 million in 2020”, detailed the ESET specialist.
Avoid falling into their clutches
An ESET investigation showed that 52% of the people consulted believe that loneliness, in the days leading up to dates such as Valentine’s Day, makes them more vulnerable to this type of romantic scam. If you fell into the clutches of these scammers, Martínez’s call is that you denounce; this will help prevent other people from becoming victims.
But if you have not fallen yet, it’s important to keep this in mind:
• Conduct research on anyone you meet on the Internet. It may not sound very romantic, but it could prevent problems and money loss in the long run.
• Look up the profile photo on the Internet to validate if it matches the name or details of the profile or if it is a fake image.
• Look up names and other details to see if the person’s life story matches information on the Internet.
• Avoid sharing too many personal details publicly on social media.
• Do not share too much sensitive information with contacts on dating apps.
• Be alert to that person’s behavior, especially when she asks too many questions or is evasive in answering.
• Never send money to anyone or open new bank accounts for them.
• Cut off all communication immediately if you suspect a potential scammer.
Remember that when something sounds too good to be true, it is most likely malicious or offensive activity.