The Cybersecurity Authority has warned the general public against engaging in activities that expose them to romance scams.
In a public alert shared by the Authority on June 12, 2023, it defined romance scam as a type of online fraud or scam where fraudsters create fake identities, usually on dating sites, social media, or unsolicited emails, to establish intimate relationships with their targets.
The scammers then exploit the victims’ trust to extort something valuable, such as money, property, or investments.
The scammers operate by creating attractive and convincing profiles on dating sites or social media platforms using impersonated information.
They conduct extensive research on their potential victims based on the targets’ online habits, such as social media posts, before engaging them.
The Cybersecurity Authority said the malicious actors then exploit the vulnerabilities of their targets, such as loneliness, insecurity, or previous traumatic experiences, to build an emotional connection with them.
“They use flattery, alluring compliments, and affectionate messages to gain their targets’ love, affection, and trust. Once trust has been established, the scammers ask for money using various excuses such as medical expenses, business transactions, and travel costs to exploit the victim’s desire to help,” it said.
They often avoid physical meetups, but some perpetrators may meet their eventual victims depending on how they intend to exploit them. For example, to facilitate a significant payment or take a valuable item like a vehicle. These actors may fake an emergency to justify their inability to fulfill requests for physical meetings or video calls.
When victims attempt to back out of the relationship, the malicious actors may escalate the scheme into blackmail or sextortion (especially in cases where they have the victim’s nudes).
The general public is therefore cautioned not to send money or provide financial assistance to someone they have only met online.
And also, people must be wary of individuals who quickly express strong emotional interest/attachment or make ambitious promises.
“Avoid sharing personal details with someone you have only met online, such as your full name, address, or financial information.
“Avoid sharing your nude pictures or compromising images.
“Use reverse Internet image search services like (httos://images.google.com/ and https://tineve.com ) to ascertain if the person’s profile picture(s) appear elsewhere online,” it recommended.
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