Interpol has issued a global warning that dating app users are being groomed for investment fraud scams.
The policing body’s Purple Notice claimed that lonely hearts are picked off online, when the fraudsters establish an “artificial romance” with their victims. Once they have built up a level of trust through regular communication, they share investment tips and encourage the victim to join up to a scheme.
“Victims download a trading app and open an account, buy various financial products and work their way up a so-called investment chain, all under the watchful eye of their new ‘friend.’ They are made to believe they can reach Gold or VIP status,” the notice explained.
“As is often the case with such fraud schemes, everything is made to look legitimate. Screenshots are provided, domain names are eerily similar to real websites and customer service agents pretend to help victims choose the right products.”
However, eventually the victims are abruptly locked out of their accounts, having invested significant sums in the financial products.
They’re then left with a double whammy of financial loss and emotional pain.
Investment and romance scams are nothing new: in fact, they’ve thrived under lockdown. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) revealed in August last year that it had been forced to take down over 300,000 related URLs.
In the UK alone, the period June-August 2020 saw a 26% year-on-year increase in romance scams, with losses for the previous 12 months hitting £66m.
Over 19,400 romance scams were recorded by the FBI in 2019, making it the second highest earner for cyber-criminals after business email compromise (BEC). Scammers took $475m from victims.
Interpol urged dating site users to be vigilant, think twice before transferring money or getting involved with online investment schemes and to do their research to check the reputation of any new apps or services.