Because there just wasn’t quite enough cybercrime in the world — the ever-inventive folks using computers to separate innocent people from their money seem to have a evolved a brand new heinous tactic: creating fake profiles on online dating sites to rob people genuinely looking for a connection.
Taking a fake photo and creating an appealing profile, “romance scammers” have managed to steal $120 million from victims in the first half of 2016 — a 23 percent increase from the same time last year. And, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, 2015 was a banner year for romance scamming, with $203 million in losses.
Dating sites say that they try to guard against fake profiles, but “a lot slip through.”
“Part of the issue is ubiquity,” said Bruce Reppert, assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, on online dating.
“I’ve not known of a romance scam that has not first started on a dating website.”
While the pattern can vary, the scams usually see the scammer pretending to be an American worker overseas. After a lengthy “courtship,” the suitor manufactures emergencies abroad and asks for a loan.
The scammed pay initially due to emotional attachment — then stay around in the hopes of collecting their debts.
“Anyone could be a victim of this given the right kind of circumstance,” said Mr. Reppert, the Illinois prosecutor.
Sites do try to screen away scammers — one official from Match.com noted that the service turns away as many as 15 percent of applicants to the site for suspicion of being involved in attempting to defraud those looking to connect.
“If there was technology that enabled us to alleviate the massive amounts of false positives, we’d do it,” a Match official noted.