How is love sought today? Well, this has changed drastically, moving from in-person encounters to online interactions via dating apps. Did you know there are about 366 million users who rely on dating apps? Dating apps have democratized the search for relationships, making it more accessible and diverse, but they have also opened a new avenue for fraudulent activity, specifically romance scams.

These virtual deceptions can not only cost the victim a considerable sum of money but can also cause significant emotional damage. At Silt, we are concerned about your emotional and financial well-being.

Therefore, in this article, we will explain what romance scams are, how they work, how you can avoid them, and how KYC measures can offer an additional layer of protection in your search for love or friendship online.

What are romance scams?

First of all, we want to explain what these romance scams are. They are a form of online fraud where a scammer pretends to be someone interested in establishing a romantic relationship with the victim. Often, these criminal acts are carried out through dating apps, social networks, or dating websites. The main goal is to emotionally manipulate the victim to reveal sensitive personal information or carry out financial transactions under the pretext of some kind of emergency or need.

Scammers usually create fake profiles filled with attractive photos and convincing personal details to lure their victims. They initiate conversations and, over time, establish what seems to be a genuine emotional bond. It is at this point that the scammer might begin to ask for favors, ranging from small amounts of money to requests for larger financial transactions, such as buying plane tickets to visit the victim or paying for an alleged urgent debt.

The most alarming aspect of these scams is that they do not simply stop at the financial level. In addition to losing money, victims of romance scams often experience a devastating loss of trust and self-esteem. In extreme cases, the emotional damage can be so severe that the affected person isolates themselves from friends and family and may suffer from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Have you heard, for example, about the famous case of the Tinder scammer?

Yes, romance scams are a dangerous and growing phenomenon that exploits the emotions and trust of people seeking a sentimental connection. Therefore, it is crucial to be informed and take preventive measures to protect oneself in the digital landscape of online dating.

How do romance scams work?

To understand how to defend ourselves against romance scams, we first need to understand how scammers operate. Although each case may have its own peculiarities, there are certain patterns and techniques commonly employed by criminals.

Here we break down the typical process of a romance scam into several stages:

Creation of a Fake Profile

The first step the scammer takes is to create a fake profile on a dating app or social network. They use stolen or purchased photos of other people, often models or good-looking individuals, to attract attention. The profile details are carefully crafted to make the fictitious identity appear as real and appealing as possible.

First Contact

Once the profile is ready, the scammer initiates the first contact with potential victims. This could be a ‘like’, a ‘match’, or a direct message. They tend to be complimentary, friendly, and eager to establish a quick connection.

Building Trust

After the first contact, the scammer dedicates themselves to building an emotional relationship with the victim. This includes sharing personal information (often also false), sending affectionate messages, and sometimes even making phone calls or video chat sessions (although the latter is less common due to the risk of exposure).

Introduction of the Problem

Once they feel they have gained the victim’s trust, the scammers introduce a ‘problem’ that can only be resolved with financial help. This problem can vary: from fictitious medical emergencies, difficulties paying rent, to the need to buy a plane ticket to visit the victim. At this stage, the scammer may present false documents, photos, and other ‘evidence’ to make their story seem more convincing.

Request for Money or Information

Finally, the request for money is made, usually through methods that are hard to trace, such as bank transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrencies. In other cases, they may request personal information that could be used to steal the victim’s identity.

Disappearance or Escalation

Once the money or information is obtained, the scammer may disappear immediately or try to extract more resources from the victim, continuing the cycle until the person realizes the scam or the financial resource is depleted.

These are the general lines of how romance scams operate. Understanding this modus operandi can be the first crucial step in protecting oneself against these dangerous frauds.

How can you avoid romance scams on dating apps?

Prevention is key to protecting yourself against romance scams. Here are some best practices and strategies to stay safe while seeking love or friendship on dating apps:

  • Be Skeptical
    If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Maintain a healthy level of scepticism, especially when someone you’ve just met online begins to express intense feelings too quickly or seems to be avoiding answering direct questions about their life.
  • Protect Your Personal Information
    Never share personal or financial information, such as your Social Security number, passwords, or bank account details, with someone you’ve met online.
  • Verify Identity
    Perform a reverse image search on profile photos to check if the images have been used on other fraudulent websites. Use Google’s search tools or specialized websites for this purpose.
  • Keep Conversations Within the App
    Try to keep all conversations and transactions within the dating app until you are completely sure of the other person’s identity. Dating platforms often have monitoring and reporting systems that can be useful in case of suspicious activity.
  • Ask and Verify
    If the person you are talking to is evasive or vague in their responses, don’t hesitate to ask more questions. Additionally, if they tell you a story that requires financial assistance, verify the information through other means before considering sending money.
  • Meet in Person or Through Video
    Before getting emotionally or financially involved, try to meet in person or, at the very least, have a video call. This could add an additional layer of verification before taking any significant steps.
  • Consult with Friends and Family
    Sometimes, when we are emotionally involved, it’s hard to see the warning signs. Sharing your experiences with trusted friends or family can provide a valuable external perspective.
  • Report Suspicious Activity
    If you have suspicions or have been the victim of a scam, report the activity to the dating platform and relevant authorities. Your report could prevent other people from being scammed.
  • Set Financial Boundaries
    Decide in advance what kind of financial support, if any, you would be willing to offer to someone you meet online and do not let yourself be persuaded to go beyond those limits.

By following these steps and maintaining a proactive stance, you can enjoy a safer online dating experience and protect yourself against romance scams.

How can you protect yourself through KYC?

KYC might be the answer to all our dating woes and doubts. You see, KYC is a very useful process for verifying the identity of clients. Here are some ways in which KYC can help protect you from dating apps:

Identity Verification

Some dating platforms are starting to implement KYC features that require users to verify their identity before they can interact with others. This might involve submitting a photo alongside an ID document or undergoing facial verification. This process deters scammers from creating fake profiles.

Two-factor authentication (2FA)

KYC is often paired with two-factor authentication to provide an additional layer of security. This means that, in addition to your password, you will need to enter a code that is sent to you via SMS or an authentication app to access your account.

Activity Logging

With KYC, user activities are also typically recorded to detect any anomalous or suspicious behaviour. If such activity is identified, the platform can take preventive measures, such as alerting the user or suspending the account in question.

Background Checks

Some high-end dating apps are even considering conducting background checks as part of their KYC process. While this might be viewed as intrusive by some, it provides an additional level of security.

Transparency and Consent

KYC processes are transparent about what information is collected and how it is used. Furthermore, you will be asked for your consent before any verification is carried out, ensuring you have full control over your personal information.

By opting for dating platforms that employ rigorous KYC procedures, you not only protect yourself but also contribute to a safer online ecosystem for everyone. Consider this an investment in your emotional and financial well-being in the pursuit of love or friendship online.