Romance scams are extremely popular these days, everyone is looking for love and to be loved and scammers are more than happy to exploit vulnerable people if it means a big pay day at the end. I recently heard a fantastic presentation from idcare (https://www.idcare.org/) on scams they have seen victims fall for. The victims will sell off everything, house, car belongings whatever it takes to help their new found love or to start a new life with them. A lot of these attacks originate via online dating apps, Plenty of Fish, Tinder, okCupid, Bumble etc, but a lot have originated via email too. The goal of the attacker is to get the victim off the platform, as being on a platform means, like okcupid for example, means they can be shut down or kicked off, so the goal is to get the victim on to email and later on to phone, where they can't be tracked and stopped.
When attackers go Phishing for romance victims via emails, these types of emails are almost always from someone in another country, Russia, Ukraine, South America that sort of thing, and all generally have a picture of some nice looking person. Here are a few I have received...
They all are worded very similar, with a tone suggesting that we have already communicated in the past, or that they came across my profile. This is done on purpose to make the victims believe they have already been engaged in a conversation. In reality though, they have gathered the email addresses from Data breaches or from other scrapes online. Most are enticing the victim to respond with further information. This is called Prestaging, and if you look at the last email, it wants my life story, picture and all that information. This information gets collected to start to build a profile and casefile on the victim. Later on if things go sour, they will threaten (extort) the victim with the threat of releasing personal information or images, it can get really nasty.
Scammers will go to great lengths to gain your interest and trust, such as showering you with loving words, sharing ‘personal information’ and even sending you gifts. They make take weeks or months to build the relationship and may even pretend to book flights to visit you, but never actually come.
Once they have gained your trust and your defences are down, they will ask you for money, gifts or your banking/credit card details and usually present a hard luck story, personal or family emergency or that they need the money to catch a flight to meet you.
You should be looking out for these emails, and protect yourself by;
> Do a Google Search of the person’s name and other details they provided to see if they have any other online accounts / presence that you can use to verify it is them.
> Do a google reverse image search to find out if they have multiple dating profiles setup. To do this go to google and select Search by Image.
> Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
> Never send intimate pictures or videos to the person, especially if you’ve never met them before. Scammers are known to blackmail their targets using such images.
> Be alert to spelling and grammar mistakes, inconsistencies in their stories and others signs that it’s a scam like their camera never working if you want to Skype each other.
> When you are setting up your online dating profile don’t give out too much information, like your full name or address or where you work. Also do not give this information out via chatting.
> Use a different image from your other social media accounts so the image cannot be referenced back to you.
> If you agree to meet a prospective partner in person, tell family and friends where you are going. It is not recommended that you travel overseas to meet someone you have never met before.
> Be wary of requests for money and requests to transfer money on their behalf, this is classified as money laundering under the law.
> Never send money or give credit card details, online account details, or copies of important personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.
> Be wary about how much personal information you share on social network sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.
For more information on scams, get a copy of Hack Proof Yourself! (links are on the main page). To wrap up this post, I'd thought i'd give you a collage of all the different 'identities' that have tried to target me of late, enjoy!