Online Dating Fraud Hits Record High

The number of people defrauded in the UK by online dating scams reached a record high in 2016. 

As reported by the BBC, there were 3889 victims of so-called romance fraud last year, with those affected handing over a record £39 million, according to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.

These figures were up from 2824 reports of dating scams in 2013, with reported losses of £27,344,814; 3295 reports and losses of £32,259,381 in 2014 and 3363 with losses falling to £25,882,339 in 2015. However, both figures appear to have risen in 2016 to an all-time high.

Javvad Malik, security advocate at AlienVault, said that these findings aren’t surprising, as 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.

“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,” he added.

However, Malik said, 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.”

There were sentiments shared by 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.”

James argued that users need to understand that when on the internet or dealing with others in a non-physical format they should always at the very least question what they are doing, and ask if it does sound legitimate?

“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. 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.”

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