The online dating scene has become the best way for fraudsters to lure individuals into placing their hard-earned cash in phony investment apps, The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) has warned.
In a Purple Notice to all of its 194 member countries, the agency outlined the operating methods of investment scammers taking advantage of people’s vulnerabilities on dating apps.
“In the initial stages, an artificial romance is established via a dating app,” Interpol explained. “Once communication becomes regular and a certain level of trust is established, criminals share investment tips with their victims and encourage them to join 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.”
How do scammers manage to cheat so many individuals? Once the fraudster sets up shop on the dating app and singles out a victim, he provides his new “love interest” with a range of information meant to boost the seeming legitimacy of the proposed investment opportunity.
“Everything is made to look legitimate,” Interpol added. “Screenshots are provided, domain names are eerily similar to real websites, and customer service agents pretend to help victims choose the right products.”
In the end, victims are left in shambles, locked out of their accounts and with no way to recover their finances. “One day, however, all contact stops and victims are locked out of the account,” the notice reads. “They’re left confused, hurt, and worried that they’ll never see their money again.”
How can you avoid becoming a victim?
Dating in the digital world can be challenging, especially now, with travel restrictions and lockdowns still governing many regions worldwide. If you’re thinking of giving online dating a shot, be skeptical of individuals who get in touch with you, and follow these simple rules:
- Terminate any contact with individuals who approach you and ask for money
- Avoid participating in online investments, no matter how good the offer may seem
- Never disclose personal or financial information to people you meet online
- Double-check and research any investment app advertised by the individual by looking up reviews, the domain name and email address
- Report any fraud attempt or financial losses to your local police