How to avoid dating scams

Who wouldn’t want to find an ideal partner? Sometimes you bump into something online that is too good to be true – and unsurprisingly it isn’t true.   

We humans are geared towards finding love and companionship. Whenever we’ve got a drive or a need, there will be criminals abusing it. There are scammers preying on unsuspecting people on online dating sites.

Why would anyone fake a profile?

Whenever there somebody trying to fool someone online, it’s a safe assumption that money is involved. This is no exception.

The online dating scammers try to gain their mark’s trust first. When they’ve gained that, they try to hit it where it hurts – in their wallet. They try to profit either by appealing to them or even worse – blackmailing them with compromising photo and video material they’ve seduced their mark to send.

Avoiding this kind of scam is easy – or surprisingly difficult, depending on your view. You just need to be skeptical of unknown people’s motives online, especially when money or compromising material is involved.

Sextortion scams

There’s also an alternative way of blackmailing online with fear of compromising material getting out, so-called sextortion. A typical sextortion scam doesn’t involve any actual photos or videos, just the fake premise that the scammer would have such material.

Often used variant of this tactic is that the scammer spams the victims by using databases of leaked email/password combinations. (By the way, don’t recycle passwords, because they will be leaked sooner or later. Use a password manager such as the one included in F-Secure TOTAL.) You can check whether your email address has been involved in a widely publicized leak by going to haveibeenpwned.com.

The emails start with words like “I hacked your device, because I sent you this message from your account.” or “So I am the hacker who cracked your email address and device a few weeks back.” or ”I'm a programmer who cracked your email account and device about half year ago. You entered a password on one of the insecure site you visited, and I caught it.” Many of them have the same format.

Tech skills and psychology combined: a double whammy

This is where the scam stops being technical and gets psychological. The sextortion email is usually written in a convincing way. The trick they are using is the fact that they know one of your old passwords from an old password leak. They let you believe that they have had access on your emails, contacts, files and webcam through it. That is obviously not true. However, when you’re shocked, ashamed and scared it’s not that obvious.

They say that they will send the compromising material to your contacts unless you send them a notable sum of money in cryptocurrency. They trust that by spamming enough people a small percentage falls for this, because the emails are usually well written and they explain their threat in vivid detail, forcing you to imagine the consequences.

They have nothing apart from an old password from a public leak. Knowing that doesn’t mean that one would have access to your webcam.

What should I do when I get this kind of email?

The solution to this kind of scam is easy. Ignore it. Don’t pay. They don’t have anything. Even if they actually did have something (which they don’t), why wouldn’t they blackmail you again and again after they’ve got the first payment? All this scam should lead you to do is to remember to not recycle your old passwords.

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