Love is in the Air, Scams Everywhere: Combating Romance Scams

Top 10 Romance Scams and Their Red Flags to Watch Out For in 2024
Love and romance can be a costly affair when it comes to personal cybersecurity. Identify the common red flags in romance scams and their types, and learn how to avoid romance scams for a secure living.

Contents

1. The Lure of Love: Superior Cyber Vigilance in Romance
2. Top 5 Tactics and Red Flags in Romance Scams
3. Cybercrime Update: Romance Scams and their Types
4. Guarding the Heart: Practicing Cyber Vigilance at its Best

 

In the digital age, online romance is a double-edged sword. While it has fostered genuine connections for many, it has also given rise to costly romance scams in 2024. So, what are romance scams? These scams exploit the human desire for companionship, causing financial and emotional harm. In 2022 alone, these scams led to losses of $1.3 billion, marking a 78% increase from 2020. Cybersecurity authorities like the FTC and FBI warn of increasing romance scams, with a focus on vigilance in online dating to ensure personal cybersecurity.
 

1.  The Lure of Love: Superior Cyber Vigilance in Romance

Relentless pursuers and masters of deceit, lies and filth are the best traits of dating scammers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that romance scams are one of the most profitable ventures for online dating scammers.
 
How much money is lost in a romance scam? In 2023, nearly 70000 consumers of online dating apps have reported a romance scam, with losses hitting $1.3 billion. The median reported loss was $4400.
 
In 2023, consumers reported that romance scammers’ favorite lies include claims to have excellent investment advice to offer and to need money because a friend or relative was ill, injured, or in jail. Romance scams lead to significant financial losses in romance scams and cause emotional distress and erode trust in online platforms.
 

2.  Top 5 Tactics and Red Flags in Romance Scams

Identifying online dating scammers is crucial. How do you know if someone is romance scamming you? Here are a few red flags to check out for:

2.1  Red Flags to Detect Romance Scams

2.2  How to Avoid Romance Scams and What Are the Warning Signs?

Romance scams are a serious issue and it’s important to be aware of the warning signs. Here are some tips to avoid online dating scams:
 
  • Reluctance to meet in person: They might say they’re living or traveling outside the country, working on an oil rig, in the military, or working with an international organization.
  • Requests for money: Once they gain your trust, they’ll ask for your help to pay medical expenses, buy their ticket to visit you, or pay for their visa. They may also ask you to help them pay fees to get them out of trouble.
  • Specific payment methods: They’ll tell you to wire money through a company like Western Union or MoneyGram. Other requests may include putting money on gift cards and giving them the PIN codes, sending money through a money transfer app, or transferring cryptocurrency.
  • Always traveling or living far away from you: They might say they’re living or traveling outside the country.
  • Refusing to video chat or always cancel: This could be a sign that they’re not who they say they are.
 
If you suspect a romance scam, stop communicating with the person immediately and talk to someone you trust. You can also search online for the type of job the person has, plus the word ‘scammer’. Remember, never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met.
 

3.  Cybercrime Update: Romance Scams and Their Types

Love in the digital age has a dark side, and it’s not just heartbreak. Welcome to the world of romance scams, where cybercriminals don’t just break hearts, they break the bank, too. Let’s explore various types of romance scams and learn how to protect ourselves.
 

1)    Catfishing:

In ‘catfishing’, scammers create fake online profiles to trick people into thinking they're in a relationship with someone who doesn't exist. They use stolen or made-up photos using AI and manipulate victims with strong emotions and convincing life stories. The scammer's goal can be financial gain, asking for money for fake emergencies or travel, or emotional exploitation, seeking attention without reciprocation. Romance scams victims can feel betrayed and lose trust in future relationships. It's important to verify online identities through video chats or reverse image searches, and be cautious with fast-progressing relationships that quickly involve money.
 

2)    Romance Scammers Asking for Money with Gift Cards:

In romance scams, the gift card scam is especially harmful because it seems harmless and hard to trace. Scammers, after gaining trust, create situations that need urgent money—for example, medical bills or blocked funds. The scammer asks for payment in gift cards, saying they are convenient and fast, and that other methods are not possible or too slow. Online dating scam victims, worried and caring, buy gift cards and share the codes, sending cash to the scammer. This scam shows the importance of being alert to any request for gift cards in an online relationship. It reminds us that real financial transactions, especially in personal relationships, rarely require payment in such ways.
 

3)    Fake Online Dating ‘Hookup’ Sites:

Fake online dating ‘hookup’ sites are one of the types of romance scams that target singles looking for love. Scammers create fake profiles and websites, promising genuine relationships and meetups. However, these websites are scams designed to steal the user’s information or money. Scammers may use manipulation tactics, such as catfishing, blackmail, or extortion, to create a feeling of trust and then ask for money or personal details. This scam shows the importance of being careful when using online dating sites or apps and verifying the identity and legitimacy of the person you are talking to.
 

4)    Blackmail and ‘sextortion’:

Blackmail and ‘sextortion’ are types of dating scams that involve threatening to expose the victim’s private or sensitive information, such as explicit photos or videos. Scammers may pose as potential romantic partners on dating sites or apps, chat with the victim and send explicit content. They may also ask for similar content in return. If the victim sends photos or videos, the scammer then blackmails them, demanding money or more content. Scammers may also claim to have hacked the victim’s device or account or to have recorded them visiting an adult site. This scam highlights the importance of being careful about what you share online and not giving in to blackmail demands.
 

5)    Inheritance Scam:

In this scam, the fraudster claims to have a large inheritance but needs help with legal or tax issues to access it. They ask the victim for a small financial contribution, promising to share the wealth once it's released. The victim sends money, assuming they're investing in their future, only to find out the inheritance doesn't exist. This scam exploits the victim's willingness to help and the promise of shared wealth. It's crucial to verify any large money claims from an online romantic interest.
 

6)    Phishing of Personal Information (Identity Theft Romance Scams):

Phishing of personal information is a type of romance scam that involves tricking the victim into revealing their personal or financial details, such as passwords, bank accounts, or credit cards. Scammers may create fake profiles on dating sites or apps, or they may contact the victim through social media and pretend to have a romantic interest in them. They may then ask for personal information, such as their address, phone number, or date of birth, under the pretext of sending gifts, booking travel, or verifying their identity. Scammers may also send phishing emails or links that direct the victim to fake websites that collect their information. This scam underlines the importance of being mindful about what you share online and verifying the identity and legitimacy of the person you are talking to.
 

7)    Online Dating Cryptocurrency Investment Scam:

In the world of digital currencies, romance scams are on the rise. Scammers, posing as savvy investors, lure victims into fake crypto investments. They promise high returns with low risk. They may even show bogus profits on a sham website. This scam exploits the victim's trust and their limited knowledge of the volatile crypto market. The fallout is not just financial loss but also the harsh truth that their romantic partner was a sham. It's a stark reminder to tread carefully when mixing romance and finance, especially in the complex world of cryptocurrency.
 

8)    Sending you to Phishing and Malware-Infected Websites:

This type of romance scam involves sending you to phishing and malware-infected websites. These websites are used to steal personal information or infect devices with harmful software. Scammers tend to send links to these websites through online dating platforms or messaging apps and claim that they are for booking travel, sending gifts, verifying identities or investing in cryptocurrency. However, these websites are designed to capture the victim's details, such as passwords, credit cards, or bank accounts, or to download malware or viruses that can damage their devices or access their data. This fraud illustrates the need of checking website sources and security before clicking.
 

9)    Military Romance Scam:

In military romance scams, fraudsters pose as military personnel on fake profiles. They claim to be stationed overseas, explaining why they can't meet. They build emotional connections over time, leading to trust and affection. They then spin stories of needing money for various reasons like travel, medical costs, or securing leave. The victims, swayed by the emotional bond and respect for the military, often send money, gift cards, or personal information. The victims face not just financial loss but also emotional pain when the scam is revealed. This cautions about online connections that quickly request money, especially if the person claims a hard-to-verify occupation.


10)    Medical Emergency Scam:

In the medical emergency scam, fraudsters build a relationship with the victim and then claim a sudden health crisis or a family member's urgent need for medical care. They ask for funds for costly treatments, exploiting the victim's sympathy and desire to help. This scam, which forces victims to make hasty decisions under the guise of life-or-death situations, can lead to substantial financial losses. Skepticism and independent verification before donating money in such instances are crucial.
 
Other types of romance scams include loan or debt relief scams, The scammers offer to help you consolidate, lower or eliminate your debt. However, they charge you upfront fees, access your personal information, or enroll you in a costly program that doesn’t reduce your debt.
 
Moreover, there are real estate or rental scams where scammers advertise fake or unavailable properties. They ask for money before showing the property or use stolen photos and details. They may also pose as landlords, agents, or tenants and ask for deposits, rent or personal information.
 
A few other scammers use online shopping scams by creating fake websites or social media pages that sell products or services that don’t exist, are counterfeit or never arrive. They may also ask for payment through unsecure methods, such as wire transfers or gift cards.
 
Many naïve youngsters in love fall prey to education or career opportunity scams. Such scammers offer scholarships, grants, loans, jobs or internships that require you to pay fees, provide personal information or attend seminars. They may also claim to be affiliated with legitimate organizations or institutions.
 
A travel or visa scam in romance scams is when a scammer fakes love and asks for money to visit you. However, they have travel problems or emergencies. They deceive you into paying more out of pity, but they never appear.
 
People are increasingly being deceived by romance scammers who pretend to be interested in them and ask for money for various reasons. These include travel, emergencies, investments, or gifts. 63% of women were victims of romance scams in 2018. The largest reported scams were paid in cryptocurrency, i.e., $139 million in 2021. With the rise in such incidents at an alarming rate, it is important for people to be more alert than ever before, be more aware of personal cybersecurity and safeguard their digital presence.
 

4.  Guarding the Heart: Practicing Cyber Vigilance at its Best

Instead of being blindfolded in love, practice vigilance and take control of the situation before it is too late. Learn from the stories and experiences of romance scam victims, and analyze scams by yourself or involve trustworthy people in your life. Educate yourself and your family, spread romance scams related public awareness, and be vigilant. Report incidences through the right channels and keep yourself safe from these scams.
 
Scammers are resilient and find new ways to scam. Be aware of their methods to avoid further damage and consequences. Romance scammers leave victims in a state of emotional damage, with feelings of being betrayed, humiliated, and ashamed of being deceived. Victims tend to suffer from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The financial costs of online dating scams to those who become the bait for romance scammers include losing thousands of dollars and having their credit cards or bank accounts compromised or stolen. Learn how to catch a romance scammer and also explore how to spot and avoid romance scams.
 
Practical advice to dodge romance scammers includes:
 
  • Research the Person: Use search engines or social media to look up the person's name, photo, and any details they share with you. Be wary if their online presence is scarce or if they seem too good to be true.
  • Guard Personal Information: Never share personal information, such as your address, phone number, or financial details, with someone you've only met online. 
  • Be Cautious with Overseas Relationships: Many romance scams involve individuals from other countries. Be extra cautious if the person claims to be living or traveling outside of your country.
  • Never Send Money: Scammers frequently use the tactic of asking for money for unexpected expenses, travel, or a plane ticket to come visit you. Never send money to someone you've only met online.
  • Be Skeptical: If the person professes love quickly, refuses to meet in person, always has an excuse to not video chat, or asks for financial help, these are red flags.
  • Report Suspicious Behavior: If you suspect you're being scammed, report it to the local authorities and the platform where you met the person. 
  • Consult with Friends and Family: Share your online romantic interactions with people you trust. They can provide a fresh perspective and may notice red flags that you didn't.
 
These scams are a serious threat in the online world, where fraudsters prey on people’s emotions and money. To prevent these scams, everyone needs to work together and stay alert. The question arises about how to stay safe from romance scams online. The best way to protect oneself is to learn about the scams, practice cybersecurity best practices to avoid them, and use strong cybersecurity tools. Online dating can be rewarding, but only if one is careful and smart.

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The Trellix Advanced Research Center provides an additional layer of protection by continuously informing the platform with information from millions of global sensors on the latest threat vectors, tactics, and recommendations. One Source experts apply these insights to stay ahead of the constantly evolving threat landscape. “The collaboration with Trellix is a game-changer in reshaping the cybersecurity landscape,” says Eric Gressel, Executive Vice President of Sales, One Source. “Thanks to our partnership, we have access to the highest level of cyber intelligence to fend off newly-revealed hackers and their means of attack, enabling our customers with the most comprehensive offering of enhanced Managed Security Services to protect their businesses.” One Source has a proven track record supporting global businesses spanning retail, restaurant, automotive, healthcare, financial, and manufacturing industries. Trellix customers can rely on One Source's leading Managed Security Services to optimize technology expenses while enhancing telecom connectivity, IT infrastructure, and cybersecurity strategies. About Trellix Trellix is a global company redefining the future of cybersecurity and soulful work. The company’s open and native extended detection and response (XDR) platform helps organizations confronted by today’s most advanced threats gain confidence in the protection and resilience of their operations. Trellix, along with an extensive partner ecosystem, accelerates technology innovation through machine learning and automation to empower over 40,000 business and government customers with living security. More at https://trellix.com. About One Source One Source helps businesses simplify a complex technology world. One Source is the leading provider of Technology and Managed Security Services for enterprises. Today, One Source manages more than 2,500 customers, 45,000 business locations, and over one million assets throughout North America. In addition to Managed Security Services, One Source provides Managed Technology Expense Management, 24 / 7 local helpdesk, procures and provisions telecom & IT solutions, and manages customer service requests. One Source frequently generates triple-digit ROI for customers through contract negotiation, portfolio optimization, and ongoing expense management. In addition, One Source leverages partnerships with industry leaders, including Trellix to bring Fortune 500 security solutions and fully managed services to the mid-market. One Source's approach empowers businesses to focus on customers and revenue-generating activities. Learn more at https://www.onesource.net/.

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Platform Security

Stellar Cyber and Proofpoint Strategic Alliance to Deliver Comprehensive Email Security Solution For SecOps Teams

Stellar Cyber | January 23, 2024

Stellar Cyber, the innovator of Open XDR, announced a new partnership with Proofpoint, a leading cybersecurity and compliance company. Through this alliance, Proofpoint and Stellar Cyber customers benefit from an out-of-the-box integration enabling swift email investigations and real-time response actions to email-driven attacks. Proofpoint Targeted Attack Protection monitors emails to identify suspicious emails and potentially malicious attachments and URLs. Once identified, the findings are shared with Stellar Cyber automatically. Stellar Cyber’s Open XDR platform ingests, normalizes, and analyzes Proofpoint findings and other collected data to deliver a comprehensive threat picture. As security analysts conduct investigations, they can instruct integrated third-party products – including Proofpoint – on corrective actions. “Protecting organizations against email-borne attacks is a top priority, and security teams need a way to automatically correlate threat telemetry across the entire attack surface in order to quickly remediate threats,” said Andrew Homer, VP of Strategic Alliances, Stellar Cyber. “This new partnership with Proofpoint is the latest example of Stellar Cyber delivering on its Open XDR strategy to provide customers turn-key integrations that improve productivity and threat detection.” “Email attacks remain the number one entry point into an organization, and the level of sophistication of these attacks continues to grow exponentially,” said D.J. Long, Vice President, Strategic Alliances & Business Development, Proofpoint. “We’re thrilled to work with Stellar Cyber on this strategic alliance to help customers protect against advanced email-based threats and unify their cybersecurity defense.” Through this alliance, Stellar Cyber and Proofpoint give security teams an advantage over attackers, resulting in the following: Real-time threat signals exchanged for proactive detection Correlation of Proofpoint alerts across the entire attack surface Automated response actions for immediate threat containment About Stellar Cyber Stellar Cyber’s Open XDR Platform delivers comprehensive, unified security without complexity, empowering lean security teams of any skill level to secure their environments successfully. With Stellar Cyber, organizations reduce risk with early and precise identification and remediation of threats while slashing costs, retaining investments in existing tools, and improving analyst productivity, delivering an 8X improvement in MTTD and a 20X improvement in MTTR. The company is based in Silicon Valley.

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