ARLINGTON, VA — Are you using a dating app? Think twice before sending revealing photos or videos. Some con artists are taking a sinister approach to romance scams by blackmailing their victims.
How the scam works
You meet someone you are interested in on a dating app. The person sends you explicit photos of themselves and asks you to reply with your own revealing pictures. The FTC reports that this particular scam is especially common on LGBTQ+ dating apps, such as Grindr and Feeld.
If you send the images or videos, the scammer then begins to blackmail you. Scammers use your phone number or social media profile to look up names of your friends, family members, and even your workmates or boss. Then, they threaten to send those pictures to your contacts.
According to one BBB Scam Tracker report, after a compromising video call, a woman began “blackmailing me, [threatening] to release the video footage on social media and send it to my friends and family. [Then] a guy took over blackmailing. They were demanding a sum of $3000.”
Scammers often ask for payment via gift card or wired funds –methods that can’t be traced to them and make it impossible for you to recuperate your funds. If you cooperate, you’ll lose your money, and there’s no guarantee the scammers will delete the images and videos. In fact, scammers will likely continue contacting you, asking for more money periodically.
How to avoid dating app scams:
Never share your personal information with someone you just met. Don’t give your cell phone number, home address, email address, or even your social media profile to a stranger. Wait until you know and trust a person, preferably when you’ve already met them in person.
Research your love interest. One telltale sign you’re dealing with a scammer is a stolen profile picture. Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture to make sure it isn’t being used under a different name or on multiple profiles.
Think before you send photos or videos. Once you send a photo or video, you cannot get it back. Keep in mind that even video calls can be recorded, and use good judgement to protect your reputation.
Don’t pay money to scammers. Even if you pay them, you have no guarantee that scammers won’t use the photos or videos anyway. Plus, your money could be funding criminal activity.
For More Information
Protect yourself by reading the BBB Tip: Romance Scams and visiting 10 steps to avoid scams. To learn more about the legitimacy of different dating apps, read the BBB Scam Alert on fake dating services.
If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams. Find more information about scams and how to avoid them at BBB.org/AvoidScams.