Investigating online dating fraud

The one thing that online dating scammers have in common is that their preferred target demographic is vulnerable and trusting people with a limited social circle or support group.

In 2014, 1.37 percent of all transactions on online dating sites were fraudulent. In comparison, iovation says 1.24 percent of all transactions it monitored across all industries in 2014 were fraudulent. In February 2014 – the time period where people increasingly seek companionship around Valentine’s Day – 1.46 percent of all online dating transactions were fraudulent. On February 14, 2014, 1.41 percent of all transactions were fraudulent on online dating sites.

In this case, iovation defines transactions as any interaction a customer has with an online dating site such as account registration, activation, login, account management and purchase.

The top five types of fraud that occur on online dating sites, in order of most to least perpetrated, are:

1. Scams/solicitations – User takes advantage of the community to promote nonexistent services and products, or to solicit services from legitimate members.

2. Spam – Person is caught sending unsolicited bulk messages via emails, postings, and instant messages to promote other products, websites or companies.

3. Credit card fraud – Cybercriminal uses a fake or stolen credit card to create multiple or premium accounts to scam users.

4. Profile misrepresentation – Fraudster posts inaccurate identity information in a profile and/or uses bogus profile photos.

5. Identity mining – Scammer makes any attempt to illegitimately acquire personal information from other users through means of phishing, keystroke logging, creating fake business websites and other methods.

“Scammers used to build relationships only to later repeatedly solicit funds, but now they are causing even more harm,” said O’Hearn. “Acts of blackmail are rapidly increasing. Fraudsters build trust until they convince individuals to send compromising photos or video, and then blackmail their victim with threats to send the media to friends and family if they don’t send money. It’s very important that online daters understand the typical scenarios that put them at risk and watch safety videos provided by the dating sites.”

The highest percentage of fraudulent transactions on online dating sites in 2014 originated from these countries:

  • Nigeria: 29 percent
  • Ghana: 26 percent
  • Ivory Coast: 15 percent
  • Vietnam: 10 percent
  • Argentina: 8 percent.

There are many telltale signs that someone’s looking to defraud you on an online dating site. Some of the more common clues are:

  • Being asked to move the conversation off of the dating site too soon
  • An unusual use of words, bad grammar and/or excessive punctuation
  • Someone geographically far from you attempts to strike up a conversation
  • After minimal contact, someone professes strong feelings
  • Claims of working out of the country for an extended time
  • Online personality varies to extremes
  • Profile picture or photograph looks different from their description
  • Personal information or phone number is requested too soon.
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