Online social engineering scams flourish around Valentine's Day

online love scams

Michael Cooney at Network World summarized the current scams doing the rounds related to online dating and romance sites. A good reminder that heartless con artists use social engineering tactics to trick people looking for love.

According to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), scammers use poetry, flowers, and other gifts to reel in victims, the entire time declaring their "undying love." These criminals also use stories of severe life circumstances, tragedies, deaths in the family, injuries to themselves, or other hardships to keep their victims concerned and involved in their schemes. Scammers also ask victims to send money to help overcome a financial situation they claim to be experiencing. These are all lies intended to take money from unsuspecting victims, the IC3 says.

The FBI notes that these callous criminals -- who also troll social media sites and chat rooms in search of romantic victims -- usually claim to be Americans traveling or working abroad. In reality, they often live overseas. Their most common targets are women over 40, who are divorced, widowed, and/or disabled, but every age group and demographic is at risk, the agency stated. The FBI said that as of 2012 the average financial loss from these romance schemes is between $15,000 and $20,000. That number is nearly double what it was a decade ago. Here is what to look our for:

  1. When on a dating site, a request to go to a private chatroom instead.
  2. Someone declaring "Love at first sight". People do not fall in love head over heels based on a profile and a few emails? Watch out.
  3. ANY request for (wiring) money for ANY reason: plane tickets, visas, a child's (mother's, whoever's) hospital bill, expenses until their ship comes in.... That is a sure sign of a scam. Did we say ANY request for (wiring) ANY money? Block and delete them. 
  4. Sends you a photograph of themselves that looks like something from a glamour magazine. 
  5. Claims to be from the U.S. and is traveling or working overseas.
  6. Makes plans to visit you but is then unable to do so because of a tragic event.
The old rule applies: STOP LOOK THINK before you click.

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