Compared to traditional criminals, cyber-criminals are typically much more difficult to catch. From hacking to sexual exploitation, cyber-criminals commit their crimes behind the anonymity and relative safety of a computer screen. However, law enforcement is catching up to cyber-criminals. You can now report internet scams and other types of internet crimes directly to the FBI through its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
As Texas federal internet crimes lawyers, we are always monitoring developments in the area of cyber-crime. Technology seems to evolve more quickly than anything else, so it’s important to stay on your toes to protect yourself from falling prey to an online scam.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, cyber-criminals have begun targeting dating websites in the latest round of internet scams.
What Are Romance Scams?
When most people think of a “romance scam,” they might picture mail order brides or similar scenarios. Although there are undoubtedly plenty of happy couples who have met through so-called mail order bride websites, they are probably the exception, not the rule.
Unfortunately, cyber-criminals have created a new way to exploit people looking for love and companionship. “Romance scams” have started popping up on popular dating websites, such as Match.com and eHarmony. Cyber-criminals go to an online dating site, create a fake profile using another person’s photos and fraudulent information, and strike up online conversations with the site’s users. They may spend months developing a rapport with a user, making the person believe they are interested in a romantic relationship.
In many cases, cyber-criminals pretend to be an American working overseas temporarily. They lure their victim into wiring money to an offshore bank account, claiming they are stranded without access to funds. According to the FBI’s IC3, Americans paid $120 million to cyber-criminals in romance scams in the first six months of 2016 – an increase of 23 percent compared to the first half of 2015.
In several cases, federal authorities have extradited cyber-criminals from other countries to the U.S. to face prosecution. In one case, an 84-year-old Indiana woman sent over $120,000 to an account in London, believing she was helping a man she met on an online dating website.
The co-founder of a dating website for individuals over age 50 said the site rejects about 15 percent of applicants every day due to scamming.
Cyber-security experts encourage people who use internet dating sites to check profile images with free apps that allow you to reverse-image search a photo to identify its origin. In many cases, cyber-criminals who use fake dating profiles pull images from stock photo sites, or simply find a third party’s photo online and pass it off as their own. Internet security experts also warn against sending anyone money online, especially if you have never met the person.
Dallas Federal Cyber-Crime Lawyers
If you have been charged with an internet crime, you could be facing serious penalties. Law enforcement is tough on cyber-criminals. Don’t wait to speak to a federal cyber-crime defense lawyer about your case.