It’s hard to believe during a recent conference call that one of the fastest growing fraud activities at Centennial Bank is called "Catphishing". Every year around Valentine’s Day online dating scams soar understandably so. According to CNBC, 1.26 percent of online Valentine’s Day dating transactions in 2014 were fraudulent and the FBI received more than 5,800 romance scam complaints.
Valentine’s Day was months ago, this is July and the activity hasn’t slowed. The FBI also reports that online dating scammers targeted divorced, widowed or disabled women over 40 the most.
Although these statistics might be cause for alarm, people still turn to dating sites to find love. In fact, 15 percent of U.S. adults report using online dating apps or sites. Rather than write online dating off, The Connection compiled a list of the top scams to watch out for and ways to keep yourself safe as you navigate your dating apps.
A catphish or scammer will create a fake profile on a dating site, and trick you into thinking they are someone else or attempt to lure you into sending personal information or money. Some people also catphish to boost their ego, like men who create profiles using a model’s photos in order to match with more women.
Asking for money scam
Some scammers match with you on a site and then get to know you so they can ask for money. Have they brought up some kind of crisis or need for money? Are they asking for your banking information or to wire them money? If so, you probably have a spammer on your hands.
Email or ad spam
Spammers use links to direct you away from the dating site you are on through the site’s messaging platforms. This can put harmful viruses on your computer, or direct you to a site that might ask for personal information to steal your identity or tap into your finances.
Signs to look out for if you match with someone online:
- They ask for money quickly. Sometimes it will be under the guise of a tragic event or need to travel somewhere.
- They are never able to meet in person. Or, they claim they are a U.S. citizen but are abroad for work or a vacation.
- They usually share only the pictures on their profile if you ask for more photos of them.
- They ask for your address with the motive of sending flowers or a gift.
- Their profile or messages are full of errors. These can be spelling, grammatical, or both.
- They claim to be recently widowed.
- Their emails contain links from outside websites.
Questions to keep you safe
There a few ways to confirm that you have encountered a scammer. Here are some questions you should be asking them or yourself:
Ask them questions about local areas, if they can’t identify or give you an answer, proceed with caution.
Always ask why they need money and never give money to someone online, or respond to their request to wire them money
- Do their photos match their description on their profile?
- Are they asking you to send photos or harassing you with inappropriate messages?
- Can you find them on other social media accounts and do their photos all match up?
- Are they trying to get you to chat on a different platform, rather than the app?
- Have they already confessed undying love for you and also requested money?
Finally, it is very important that targets of online or phone scams report this to the proper authorities. Although it can be a bit embarrassing to have been hit by such a crime, reporting is the only way to direct investigators and regulators to pursue the criminals behind the scam or identity theft. Aside from reporting the scam to law enforcement, it is important to work with your bank, credit card issuer, or the business where your account was compromised to take the necessary steps in preventing further financial loss.
If you are the target of a financial scam, report it to the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint. If this scam was via email or over the Internet, also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov/complaint.
Targets of identity theft can also file a report at www.identitytheft.gov and receive a recovery plan detailing how to move forward based on the type of scam committed.