Experts warn: Stay vigilant when dating online – LNN | #daitngscams | #lovescams

With dating sites gaining popularity among those looking for love, several people have fallen victim to scams on dating sites and many end up losing money.

According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) some terror groups have been targeting South Africans to finance their criminal acts through romance scams.

There are also reports that dating scams are used by fraudsters to launder the illicit proceeds of crime.

In 2021, eight people were arrested in Cape Town in connection with an online scam and stealing more than R100m from victims in various countries.

A Pietermaritzburg resident, who asked not to be named, says it was she was an easy target. She adds that other than the financial loss, the whole ordeal was also emotionally damaging.

Apart from well-known dating sites, Facebook is also used as a platform for such types of scams.

CEO at Eset Southern Africa, Carey van Vlaanderen, says catfishing, sextortion, phishing and other romance scams are big business for fraudsters. She adds that knowing how to spot red flags can mean the difference between being deeply in love and knee-deep in debt.

Van Vlaanderen says online dating or romance scams are financially and emotionally costly as fraudsters exploit people’s vulnerabilities, trust, and feelings of loneliness.

“When visiting online dating platforms, be aware of photos that look too good to be true. An image search on Google can help you determine if the photo is authentic or a stolen or stock photo.”

Other red flags include requests for private information such as your ID number, declarations of love alarmingly early in the relationship or a request for money to help them out of a situation.

Sextortion is also another form of deception that often occurs. According to Eset Southern Africa, it begins as a seemingly normal relationship before the scammer pressures the victim into sending intimate photos or videos, which are used as material to blackmail the victim.

Catfishing is another common trick where scammers lure their victims into a relationship based on the attacker’s fictitious online persona. Once the victim is hooked, the scammer will send messages about being in financial trouble with promises to pay the money back later.

Thandiwe Nsele says she lost close to R15 000 through an online dating site. Nsele says she met a man on one of the dating sites.

“I knew him as a doctor and everything checked out. Things started to get serious after weeks of communication. He spoiled me a lot and I think that’s what made me fall for his lies and end up sending him money.”

She adds that she did not believe people who warned her about the man.

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