Cybersecurity knowledge is not just crucial for corporations and other internet-facing organizations; it is also essential for everyone. Consumers, particularly those who are lonely and in their so-called golden years, are plentiful prey for romance scams and other forms of fraud.
According to research, the number of romantic frauds is high. Even younger people who divulge too much information about their love lives on dating websites, and other media platforms may become easy targets for love scams and identity theft.
According to the FBI, Romance scams are scenarios in which a criminal creates a false online persona to acquire the love and confidence of a victim. The scammer then makes the appearance of love or intimate connection with the victim to deceive and steal from them. Romance scammers are skilled at seeming sincere, sympathetic, and credible in their interactions with victims.
These con artists may be found on almost every dating and social networking website. According to the AARP, they are ready to take advantage of the lonely people who now populate the internet. According to a new AARP consumer recommendation for adults over 50, searching for romantic happiness online may have significant financial consequences.
According to a Project, Might analysis from the Pew Research Center, three out of every ten individuals in the United States have used a dating website or app. One in every five Americans between 50 and 64 falls into this category. Some individuals searching for romance online place themselves in a vulnerable position to be targeted by cyber-romance scammers.
Romance scammers use social media as a hunting ground for their victims. According to the Federal Trade Commission, fraudulent suitors are reaching out to prospective victims they have identified on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. The number of complaints regarding romantic scams received by the Federal Trade Commission increased from 11,235 incidents in 2016 to 52,593 cases in 2020.
The reported losses exceeded $300 million, representing a roughly fourfold rise over the previous year. According to the Federal Trade Commission, it seems that the older the romantic target, the greater the financial toll. The median individual loss from a romantic scam was $9,475 for persons aged 70 and older, compared to $2,500 across other age groups.
In addition to leading victims into potentially illegal activities, romance scams may also lead to the person being a victim of fraud. International criminal organizations use dating websites to recruit unknowing “money mules” who would launder ill-gotten monies via their bank accounts or other ways.
A recent investigation noted a growing tendency of romance fraudsters luring their romantic targets to make fake bitcoin investments in September 2021.
According to Edvardas Garbenis, a cybersecurity expert and publisher at Atlas VPN, romance scams cost Americans about $350 million last year. The severe societal changes that have occurred due to the epidemic may be a significant contributing factor.
“Telling individuals to stay away from online dating during times of loneliness is not going to succeed. “However, we can all do our part to educate ourselves and others about the dangers that lie on the internet,” he said.
Covid Made Me Do It
Last year was one of the most lonely years they’d ever experienced for many folks. According to Garbenis, for individuals who have been keeping track of their emotional well-being, it may be evident why there has been an increase in love frauds.
“During 2020, people did not get used to being alone. He found that “on the contrary, many claim that their well-being was much lower in 2021 than it was in 2020.”
According to the study, a recent government telephone poll of 11,000 Medicare members revealed that 40% reported feeling less socially connected to family and friends than they did in November 2020. These findings establish the groundwork for the worrying increase in romance frauds. According to Garbenis, the epidemic hit impersonators who enjoyed it immensely.
“At least, for the time being, they have a solid reason for not being able to meet in person. “This enabled fraudsters to conduct romantic scams on a far wider scale than they had before,” he said.
Garbenis is motivated to examine the constantly changing cybercrime scene to alert the general public, including his VPN users, about the most recent online risks and vulnerabilities.
He responded by posting a blog on the AtlasVPN website in late January to inform clients of the situation. AtlasVPN obtained information from a Federal Trade Commission report. He said that it is difficult to find if one does not know where the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) keeps this information.
AtlasVPN analyzed the FTC data and published its description of the growing danger to individuals looking for love on the internet. According to Garbenis, the conclusions of that piece concentrated on the fact that devastated and lonely victims lost upwards of $343 million in the first three quarters of 2021. So yet, there is no information available for the fourth quarter of last year.
Dailion examined various advisories and studies issued by the FBI, Pew Research Center, and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) that had identical facts and cautions. Financial losses from these sources were reported until the end of last year, but no more recent numbers were available beyond the third quarter of 2021.
In his statement, Garbenis said that “based on the facts we now have, it is reasonable to conclude that romance scams cost around $500 million in losses over the full year.”
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, swindlers took $268 million from victims of all ages in 2020. According to him, monetary damages topped $342 million in the first three quarters of 2021, marking a 27.7 percent increase over the same period in the previous year.
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s table below, “Losses to romance scams by age,” it is evident that the amount of money lost to romance scams in six out of seven age groups exceeds the amount lost in 2020. Garbenis pointed out that the money amount remains the same even when the first three quarters of 2021 are compared to the whole year 2020.
Perhaps the most shocking statistic is that persons aged 60 to 69 lost much more money in 2020 and 2021 than any other age group except those under 60. He went on to say that this was also the case in 2019.
The total amount of money lost to romance scams among those over the age of 60 increased from around $84 million in 2019 to approximately $139 million in 2020. These two age groups were the worst impacted, with $129 million in total reported losses in 2020 falling on the 60-to-69 and 70-to-79 age groups, respectively.
According to the study findings, romance scams caused cumulative losses of $129 million in 2020 and $145 million in Q1-Q3 2021, making them the most financially harmful fraud category for seniors.
Younger generations of Americans are also susceptible to romantic impersonators. People between the ages of 20 and 59 will lose $130 million in 2020 and $187 million in the first three quarters of 2021. Even without the information about losses in the fourth quarter, that rise was 44 percent.
In a nutshell, impersonator frauds on dating websites and other social media platforms are a problem for people of every age range.
How a VPN Can Help
Building connections online is a simple method to remain in touch with friends and family. Keep your heart open, but your pocketbook closed until you meet your newfound love in person is perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from the data.
Garbenis believes that VPNs, or virtual private networks, might provide an additional layer of protection against fraud. According to Garbenis, the additional cybersafety given by connecting to dating services over a VPN is backed by several compelling arguments.
“First and foremost, it alters your IP address. According to him, this enables users to access dating websites that may not be accessible in their own country.”
For example, several Arab governments impose tight internet restrictions, preventing access to sites incompatible with Islamic principles. For example, citizens of the United Arab Emirates are out of luck if a dating website is deemed to be against the law.
“As a result, the United Arab Emirates has the highest rate of VPN use in the world.” According to him, other Arab nations rank high on the list in addition to Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, while utilizing public Wi-Fi to access dating services, the use of a VPN is highly recommended. Garbenis went on to say that this is by far the most straightforward method for hackers to get your login credentials.
“Public Wi-Fi networks have very lax security in this aspect, and a VPN connection eliminates the issue. It is possible that having your dating profile hijacked may have humiliating implications if you are not cautious, among other things,” he said.
Tips for Avoiding Romance Scams
It is recommended by the FBI that people avoid being taken advantage of by con artists who utilize the appearance of love and trust to manipulate or steal from their victims. Please remember that scammers use the information you provide on social media and dating websites to understand better and target you.
- Slow down and ask as many questions as you can;
- Utilize web searches to determine whether or not the individual’s picture and profile have been utilized elsewhere;
- Be cautious if the person wants you to quit a dating service or social media site soon to speak directly with them.
- Prevent yourself from being isolated from friends and family or being asked to give inappropriate images or financial information that might be used to blackmail you.
- Always be wary of verbal pledges to meet in person that is often broken with a variety of justifications;
- You should never pay money to someone with whom you have only chatted online or over the phone.