Love isn't just affecting hearts—it's hurting wallets, too, as cybercriminals capitalize on people looking for romance online.
The romance frauds chronicled in Netflix's latest hit true crime docu, The Tinder Swindler, is more prevalent than you think.
In the series, Simon Leviev catfished women on Tinder, making them fall in love with him to later ask for money. Scammers have been doing the same, taking a total of $304 million from love-crazed victims online in 2020, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
In Southeast Asia specifically, a study by Kaspersky found that almost one in two (45%) in the region lost money because of love scams online. Last year, Singapore and Malaysia tracked down a group specializing in romance scams, including the case of a 41-year-old woman who lost a total of $28,000 (around P1 million) to a man she met on Facebook.
Still, not all connections online turn out to be scams but to keep your hearts and your wallets safe, here are some red flags to watch out for that are tell-tale signs of an online dating scam:
- They demonstrate strong emotions in a very short time.
- They quickly ask to move from dating apps to private channels.
- You're asked a lot of questions about yourself—the more they know you, the easier you will be to manipulate.
- Since scammers work in teams, their story or identity can get inconsistent.
- They don't have a digital footprint. Try looking them up on social media apps and if you can't find any trace of the person online, be suspicious.
- They don't agree to video calls or face-to-face meetings. Scammers tend to catfish or use another person's photo in the profile picture to avoid getting tracked down.
- They ask for money based on personal hardship, like for a sick relative or failed business.
How to avoid online dating scams
To avoid romance scams, you have to be vigilant of any online relationship—romantic or platonic—that develops too fast. Here are some tips to keep your heart and your wallet safe.
- Don't accept friend requests from people you don't know on social media.
- Avoid revealing too much personal information on your dating profile or to someone you've chatted with only online.
- Take things slowly. Ask your potential partner questions and watch out for inconsistencies that might reveal an impostor.
- Use reputable dating sites and keep communicating there until you're sure of them. Fraudsters will want to switch to other platforms quickly so there's no evidence on the dating app of them asking for money.
- Never give money to anyone you don't have a relationship with offline.
- If you decide to go on a date with someone online, let people in your life know where you'll be just to be on the safe side.