FBI: Dating scammers raked in millions in 2021

Online dating has always had its risks far beyond the minefield that is modern romance. The number of scammers on dating websites and applications makes the whole prospect seem not worth the risk. Nevertheless, many do brave the waters and wind up dealing with these cybercriminals head-on. Unfortunately, as a new FBI public service announcement notes, these online dating scammers have found many victims with a lucrative payday attached.

Released via the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) website, the Federal Bureau of Investigation published an alert that reads in part as follows:

The FBI warns of a rising trend in which scammers are defrauding victims via online romance scams, persuading individuals to send money to allegedly invest or trade cryptocurrency. From January 1, 2021-July 31, 2021, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received over 1,800 complaints, related to online romance scams, resulting in losses of approximately $133,400,000.

The scammers make contact via a number of websites and applications (Tinder, Match, and others) and pose as potential mates. After gaining trust, the victim is directed to a website that the cybercriminal claims will pay dividends by investing in cryptocurrency or other trading schemes. The FBI states that the scammers claim to have inside knowledge, and as there is a romantic element to this grift, the victims are more likely to believe them.

The scam continues until the victim is ready to withdraw money from their investment. Once this happens, the cybercriminals initiate the next phase, which consists of the following:

The victim is informed additional taxes or fees need paid, or the minimum account balance has not been met to allow a withdrawal. This entices the victim to provide additional funds. Sometimes, a “customer service group” gets involved, which is also part of the scam.

Once the victim stops giving money, all contact is severed and the individual is left in the dust. It seems so simple to avoid scams like these, but as alluded to earlier, the romantic angle is what causes otherwise sensible people to drop their guard.

The takeaway from this is a simple one. Anytime a stranger, even someone you are getting to know in a dating app, asks for financial contributions you, are (most likely) getting scammed.

Featured image: Flickr/Wonderlane

Derek Kortepeter

Derek Kortepeter is a graduate of UCLA and tech journalist that is committed to creating an informed society with regards to Information Security. Kortepeter specializes in areas such as penetration testing, cryptography, cyber warfare, and governmental InfoSec policy.

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Derek Kortepeter

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