Lockdown Love Scams Reach a Record High

In the era of digitalization, scammers are increasingly using new tactics to dupe victims for financial or other advantages. Recently, the FBI and several other agencies issued an alert about ongoing romance scams and several other frauds.

Recent reports on romance scams

  • According to an FTC report, in 2020, financial losses due to romance scams increased up to $304 million, a 50% jump from 2019. From 2016 to 2020, total losses rose more than four times and reported incidents tripled.
  • Romance fraud including bank transfer increased up to 20% year-on-year between January and November 2020, according to UK Finance. The total value of this type of scam increased by 12% to $22.3 million.
  • Last month, Interpol released a report on how fraudsters are targeting dating app users. The cybercriminals share investment tips with their victims to encourage them into joining a scheme.

Romance scam characteristics

The Online Dating Association (ODA) had observed that more than 50% of people in its survey were having long conversations on dating sites during the lockdown.
  • During conversations, cyber-criminals often manipulated their victims by claiming they needed money for emergency situations such as medical care.
  • In some cases, scammers used their victims as a money mule, as an unsusceptible link in their chain of transactions, while laundering stolen funds. 
  • Few victims reported that the money received and forwarded by them later turned out to be stolen unemployment benefits.

Conclusion

Most of the time scams take advantage of human error, greed, or their inability to differentiate between genuine and fake. Thus, experts suggest never to send money or gifts to an unknown person, until you meet them personally. When interacting with new people, try to do a reverse image search for the profile picture to confirm the identity of the person. In addition, use anti-spam and anti-phishing solutions to avoid phishing emails. Regular training and awareness are thought to be the best prevention against most scams.
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