Love at a Cost: The Rise of Dating App Scams

Written by
Harriet O'Connor
Feb 13, 2024
Dating App Scams | Dating App Scammers

Dating apps have become the most popular way for romantic relationships to form, with 39% of US couples saying they met online. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, as romance scammers are increasingly employing a range of deceitful tactics to win over both the hearts and wallets of their victims.

Around 1 in 10 online dating profiles are fake, and 20% of people using online dating apps have either been asked for money or have given money to someone they met online. These scammers cunningly mirror their victims’ goals and interests, creating the illusion of a perfect match. But there is one problem – they can’t meet in real life! This is often due to an array of clever excuses, such as being on a faraway military base or an offshore oil rig. The web of lies told by these scammers is limitless in their pursuit of financial gain.

In this edition of our Scam Awareness Series, we're swiping right into the world of dating apps. We’ll provide insight into the deceptive practices used by dating app scammers, and how advanced AI technology can be employed to prevent these fraudsters from financially and emotionally exploiting users and compromising the integrity of dating apps.

What is a Dating App Scam?

Various terms can be used to describe the modern-day dating app scam, with ‘romance scam’ broadly encompassing scenarios where individuals are deceived into sending money to someone they have met on a dating app. ‘Catfishing’ specifically entails the creation of a fake online identity to engage someone emotionally, while ‘pig butchering’ refers to a more intricate and long-term scam where criminals lure victims into relationships to build trust before convincing them to make financial investments.

In a 2022 UK survey, 57% of participants that were asked to send money to someone they met online agreed to send it. The average request was for £345, with 6% seeking over £1,000!  The most common reasons included paying for emergencies, travel expenses, and investments. This just shows the deceptive and coercive power of these scammers.

Dating App Scams | Dating App Scammers

What are the Most Common Types of Dating App Scams?

It's crucial for dating apps to be vigilant and proactive in safeguarding their users from scams. These are the most common types of dating app scams encountered by users of popular platforms:

  1. Financial Assistance Scam: This tactic involves scammers establishing romantic relationships with the intention of manipulating victims into providing financial assistance. They fabricate elaborate stories, such as medical emergencies or financial crises, to extract money from their targets.

  2. Investment Scam: Scammers pose as potential romantic partners while convincing victims to invest money, often in fake investment opportunities or cryptocurrency ventures. Once the funds are transferred, the scammer disappears, leaving victims to suffer financial and emotional losses.

  3. Recruitment Scam: In this scheme, scammers pretend to be recruiters or employers seeking a romantic relationship. They lure victims with promises of lucrative job opportunities or career advancements, eventually leading to requests for money or personal information under the guise of job-related needs.

  4. Military Impersonation Scam: Scammers adopt false military identities to establish credibility and tug at the heartstrings of their targets. They often claim to be deployed on a faraway military base, and have playbooks for requesting urgent financial assistance or support.

  5. Inheritance Scam: Scammers may pose as individuals expecting a significant inheritance or financial windfall. They build emotional connections with victims, citing complex legal or financial obstacles that require upfront payments to access the supposed inheritance.
Dating App Scams | Dating App Scammers

What are the Most Common Techniques Used by Dating App Scammers?

Scammers employ the following techniques to appear genuine and gain the trust of their targets on dating apps.

  • Catfishing with Stolen Photos: Scammers use stolen or stock photos to create fake profiles, presenting an attractive and seemingly authentic identity to lure unsuspecting users.

  • AI-Generated Deep Fakes: With recent advancements in AI technology, scammers can use deep fake techniques to create realistic photos, video or audio messages, to try to sound authentic and convince their targets they’re real.

  • Love Bombing: Scammers overwhelm their targets with excessive affection, compliments, and attention, creating an illusion of intimacy and emotional connection in a short period.

  • Sympathy Manipulation: Scammers fabricate emotional stories, such as medical emergencies or personal hardships, to elicit sympathy from their targets, creating a stronger bond and increasing the likelihood of financial assistance.
  • Social Engineering: Scammers use tried and tested methods to exploit and manipulate human behavior, such as mirroring the target's interests, values, and emotions to create a sense of familiarity.

Who is Most Likely to be a Victim of a Dating App Scam?

It's important to note that ANYONE can fall victim to dating app scams, and caution is advised for users of all ages and backgrounds. However, statistically, certain groups may be more at risk. According to data from Lloyds Bank, men made up 53% of cases of romance scams in 2022, and the 65 to 74 age group was most likely to be targeted, with the median loss increasing with age. Scammers try to exploit the vulnerability of those who are less tech-savvy, or socially isolated.

Spotting the Dating App Scammer

For dating apps, it is crucial to empower and educate users to recognize warning signs, and spot the scammers on your platform. Users should be vigilant for:

  • Improbable Profiles: Scammers often create overly attractive and ‘too good to be true’ personas to entice users.

  • Rapid Relationship Progression: Exercise caution if expressions of love or commitment occur prematurely.

  • Requests for Financial Assistance: Users seeking monetary aid are a red flag.

  • Inconsistencies in Narratives: Scammers often struggle to maintain cohesive stories, leading to inconsistencies.
Dating App Scams | Dating App Scammers

What are the Implications of Dating App Scams?

According to The FTC, in 2022, nearly 70,000 Americans lost money to romance scams (up 25% from the year before), losing a total of $1.3 billion. However, for users, the implications extend far beyond financial losses. Victims of dating app scams often endure emotional trauma, shattered trust, and, in some cases, the risk of personal safety. These scams can lead to devastating consequences, including depression, anxiety, and even instances of self-harm and suicide. Moreover, the erosion of trust in online platforms can have a lasting impact on users' willingness to seek genuine connections, potentially hindering the growth and sustainability of dating app ecosystems.

Furthermore, users of dating apps may be deterred from seeking genuine connections on platforms known for their susceptibility to hosting scammers, thereby damaging the platform's reputation and potentially leading to a decline in user engagement and participation. For dating app platforms, investing in robust anti-scam measures is a vital strategy to protect their users, and the long-term viability of their business too.

A Dating App Scam in The Spotlight - 'The Tinder Swindler'

The severity of dating app scams was brought into the spotlight through the 2022 Netflix documentary ‘The Tinder Swindler’. It tells the unsettling story of a group of women who fell victim to the cunning exploits of Simon Leviev, who deceptively presented himself online as a jet-setting diamond mogul. He claimed to be facing financial troubles or legal issues that required immediate financial assistance, manipulating many women to provide substantial sums of money because they believed they were in a genuine romantic relationship with him. This story not only exposes the substantial financial losses but also sheds light on the emotional trauma, shattered trust, and mental health challenges the victims grappled with in the aftermath.

Dating App Scams | Dating App Scammers

What Can Be Done to Detect Scammers on Your Dating App?

While it may seem overwhelming, as a dating app you have the ability to prevent these nefarious romance scammers with advanced artificial intelligence technology. With the evolution of AI, dating apps can now deploy machine learning algorithms and behavioral analytics to meticulously analyze user behavior, swiftly flagging suspicious activities and weeding out fake accounts.

At Pasabi, we are experts in detecting fake accounts. Our Trust & Safety Platform uses AI, behavioral analytics and cluster technology to detect non-genuine behaviors and uncover connections between networks of users to identify the most prolific offenders. Contact us today to discover how our cutting-edge AI technology can fortify your dating app against scammers.

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