Fraud on dating sites – is it possible?

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Fraud on dating sites – is it possible?

Dating sites nearly doubled their popularity since the pandemic struck in 2020. To say more, the revenue generated by the dating industry grew by $1.2 bn in these 2 years and is expected to grow to nearly $4.5 bn by 2026. However, fraud on dating accounts is also rampaging, as dating website users lost more than $300 mn to romance scammers in 2021 — and the numbers are growing in 2022.

Source: Statista

Naturally, such a lucrative industry draws the attention of all kinds of scammers and fraudsters. According to the FTC, in 2021 fraud in dating accounted for nearly $550 million, which was a record and an increase of nearly 80% as compared to 2020 — and the romance scammer wave shows no signs of stopping. How to defend your dating website from romance scams then?

Covery, enterprise-grade risk mitigation and fraud prevention system, is no newbie to fighting fraud on dating sites. This article covers the basic signs of dating offers fraud you might face on dating websites — so you can ensure your “love at first swipe” is not a romance scammer. It also lists the fraud prevention tools Covery provides for fraud prevention, detection of romance scammers, and the ways to prevent fraudulent dating accounts from becoming a scourge of your dating platform.

What is fraud in an online relationship?

Fraud on a dating website, also known as a romance scam, happens when a fraudster adopts a fake identity. This activity aims to persuade another dating account owner that they are in a relationship and gain enough trust to ask a victim for money — or simply blackmail them. Note, this does not only to women sending nudes — most victims are men, according to the FTC report mentioned above, with an average scam size reaching $2500 per victim.

Below are the most widespread cases of fraud on dating sites:

  • Fake dating sites. Unlike Tinder, Badoo, Mamba, or other reputable dating sites and apps, these are created to steal the sensitive information of legitimate users.
  • Forged identities. Even on real dating sites, romance scammers create fake profiles and post photos of attractive men/women instead of their real photos. The solution to this is simple — using live face recognition tools for profile verification. However, scammers can create multiple dating accounts even using their real photos.
  • MIlitary scams. Women easily fall for servicemen — they are brave, loyal, have a good physique, and earn good money, aren’t they? Well, some people that pose as military stationed abroad are simply romance scammers.
  • Nudes. Many women can be wooed into sending their nudes as a part of flirting — and then blackmailed.
  • SSN and other code verification scams. Fraudsters pose as dating apps and send emails like “LIly wants to meet you, register to start chatting on <website>”. Naturally, any information like SSN and credit card details victims enter during registration is stolen.
  • Fake inheritance. Many romance scammers pose as old and rich people who don’t want their greedy relatives to inherit their wealth. They make a proposal to a victim but ask to pay for something they can’t pay from abroad — and deceive the victims this way.
  • Malware fraud. Many fraudulent websites resemble real dating sites, but malware infects their visitors. Keeping your guard (and antivirus and firewall) up while surfing dating sites is highly recommended.

This barely scratches the surface of possible fraud on dating sites, but can give you an understanding of the whole picture — and you have experienced one or two such cases, most likely. How to identify potential threats on the fly then?

What are the signs of a romance scammer?

The usual long story short is — a romance scammer connects with a victim on a dating app and via social media, builds trust by chatting frequently and listening carefully — and then asks for help, receives money, and vanishes. How can one prevent such an outcome? By looking for certain warning signs:

  1. Your sweetheart is far away. They can’t come to you easily — long-term work contract, military deployment, illness of a relative, a construction project in a distant location… you know the drill.
  2. Their dating profile is purrrfect match. They love the food, animals, and pastimes you adore, they are a chesty blonde or a slim brunette, they are sporty, fit and adore pleasures of flesh … one match is good, but a perfect match should ring a bell.
  3. This goes on too fast. You swiped right a week ago, and after a couple of days of chatting till 2 a.m., they say you are ideal, confess in never-dying love and offer you to come to them — or to come to you themselves (after you help them buy the tickets). They might also suggest moving from a dating website to WhatsApp or other messengers — you aren’t dating anyone else anyways, yes?

Keep in mind that such conversations have certain markers that should arouse your suspicions:

  • Messages are worded in a weird way, so they can easily be copied and pasted in many conversations.
  • Topics change fast in the conversation, not allowing you to delve deeper into any topic.
  • Too many grammar mistakes, as if your virtual vis-a-vis is nervous or in a hurry.
  • If a dating site allows a video chat, they never agree to it.

Even if one such thing occurs — beware. If two or more take place — block and report such a person, they definitely are a romance scammer.

  1. A personal visit that never happens. They can’t easily come to your location, remember? But moved by the passion, they promise to come to you if you help pay the fees for violated contract terms or buy airplane tickets, etc. Needless to say, they cancel at the very last moment and come up with a plausible explanation (after swindling you for money)
  2. Urgent pleas for help! Romance scammers can ask for money directly — for urgent surgeries, gaming debts of their relatives, and other fictitious reasons. They might even have a sob story ready as proof. Alternatively, they might transfer some money to your banking account and ask you to make some purchases or deliver parcels or cash to some people. Beware, this might be a part of a money-laundering scheme!
  3. Visa or Mastercard don’t work at their location. They might ask you to open a new bank account, send a wire transfer or buy some gift cards. All of these are methods to receive payment while remaining anonymous.

As you can see, romance scammers are inventive and persistent, but them having to follow certain tactics means you can spot the red flags on time and avoid being fooled. Forewarned means forearmed, yes?

But what can you do as a business owner to protect legitimate users of your dating website from romance scammers?

How do you deal with a romance scammer?

Fraudsters have to use the aforementioned techniques to deceive their victims. This means that monitoring for these (and other) signs of fraudulent activity helps identify romance scammers on the fly and timely delete their dating profiles.

Covery adds another layer of fraud prevention and detection. For example, it shows when a fraudster logs in into another account from the same device — or when a newly created dating profile uses software or hardware identifiers that were previously associated with fraudulent activities. 

Here are some more Covery insights. Did you know that men actually prefer dark-haired beauties despite the popular opinion that “blondes are prettier”? Fraudsters know this all too well, as stolen dark-haired photos are used in more than 85% of all fake dating offers we detect on platforms owned by our customers. If a woman creates a new profile and uploads such a photo — Covery anti-fraud system automatically suggests passing a live video verification, in addition to using other anti-fraud tools. 

Covery processes more than 12 unique identifiers to form a comprehensive view of every dating account, spot romance scammers as early as on registration stage and block their accounts at once. Using Covery results in up to 80% reduction in fraud volumes — and a supervised Machine Learning algorithm works incessantly to improve this ratio even further. 

Would you like to see how Covery can help your business fight fraud on a dating site? Order a free demo and learn all the value Covery can provide!