One in two, or 45 percent of people surveyed in the Philippines and Southeast Asia (SEA), lost money to online love scams, according to a recent Kaspersky study.
The oldest and loneliest group lost the most – over half a million pesos, from online romance fraud.
Specifically, the two oldest generations – Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964), and the Silent Generation (born 1928 to 1945) – accounted for the bulk, or 33 percent, of those who fall prey to love scammers.
Sadly, two in five in the most senior age group admitted to being defrauded by as much as P255,000 to P510,000 ($5,000-10,000) from love scams online.
Only a small portion, or 8 percent, of Gen Z (born 1997 to 2012) lost over P510,000 ($10,000) from romance-related threats.
The rest, 22 percent of the victims, were fleeced for less than P5,100 ($100).
“When we’re younger, we tend to be more curious and a bit more reckless. When we’re older, we have a lot of time in our hands and retirement funds in our bank accounts,” explained Kaspersky Managing Director for Asia Pacific Chris Connell.
“Cybercriminals know these realities as well as our human tendencies to be lonely and crave for a company when forced to be alone inside our houses,” he warned.
“Nothing is more painful than having a fake lover and an empty wallet,” Connell stressed.
Hence, “We urge everyone from all ages to remain vigilant and discerning in the relationships they build online and offline.”
Romance scams surged when the pandemic hit. With limited physical movements, the internet, particularly social media platforms, provided a critical connection for people.
More than half (53 percent) of social media users around the world used social networks more during local and national lockdowns than before, according to Kaspersky’s findings.
Furthermore, 18 percent of the 1,007 adults surveyed to represent Southeast Asia (SEA) used social media mainly to find romance and the majority (76 percent) confirmed that social media provided them with a vital connection during the global health emergency.
Close to a quarter (24 percent) of the respondents from SEA said that they have formed real-life, in-person friendships with people met initially on social media while another 18 percent admitted they dated someone they’ve met on these platforms.
The Kaspersky study, conducted by research agency YouGov, covered 1,618 respondents in 10 Asia Pacific countries, including the Philippines, Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, , Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The respondents ranged from 18-65 years of age, all of which are working professionals who are digital payment users.
Regardless of platform or app, warning signs of online dating scams include demonstration of strong emotions in a very short time, Kaspersky warned.
Cybercriminals also move quickly from dating sites or apps into private channels.
They ask a lot of questions about their victims to manipulate them more easily but the scammers’ own stories are often inconsistent as they operate in teams, with different people hiding behind one identity.
Also, scammers don’t have a digital footprint. While some people don’t use social media and try to minimize the amount of personal information about them on the internet, it can be suspicious if you can’t find any trace of a person online.
Scammers avoid video calls or face-to-face meetings as well.
People who are scammed generally report that the other person made constant excuses to avoid going on camera because they don’t look like the person in their profile picture. They also want to avoid being identified to prevent being tracked down afterward.
Cybercriminals request for money based on personal hardship, such as sick relatives or a failed business.
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