The Government Warns Against ‘Lonely Heart’ Scams

You might receive regular emails, texts, or social media interactions claiming to be from a dating app or service. As with any interaction online, you have to be vigilant in case it’s a scam.

The FBI is currently sending out a warning to the public that scams posing as potential online romantic connections are asking people to send over money to trade or invest in cryptocurrency, CNET reports.

The tech news website details that in the first seven months of 2021, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 1,800 complaints from people in the U.S. tied to these kinds of online romance scams. This resulted in $133.4 million total losses.

The FBI warns these illicit transactions usually start on social media sites and popular dating apps. You might think you are speaking with a potential romantic connection, but the conversation will soon veer from dating to cryptocurrency. The users being targeted will eventually receive a link to a suspicious, fake app or website that will then ask them to send over personal financial information.

Then, the cybercriminals will ask the users to take out a small amount of money, ultimately instructing their targets to invest increasingly greater sums of money. A time crunch and sense of urgency will usually be infused into these interactions — making the user feel they have to act quickly for the biggest financial gain. If you get to this stage of the scam and try to withdraw more, the cybercriminal will eventually tell them they won’t be able to do so but more taxes or added-on fees will need to be paid, for example. The targeted user will then keep investing more money into the alleged “cryptocurrency” account.

This latest trend follows others in the past and underscores continued “cybersecurity hygiene” that you should always practice. CNET offers an overview of what you should keep in mind when it comes to these scams:

  • Never send money: Avoid sending money to anyone you come across through an online app or website. Beyond this, do not discuss financial plans or investments with a stranger you encounter on a dating app.
  • Keep your banking information private: Similarly, make sure you keep your social security number, passport information, and personal banking account information private. Do not share this with a third party.
  • Research the investment: If you choose to pursue a new investment, always do your research. Be vigilant about where you are investing your money, and only go with vetted sources. The odds are high that a stranger on a dating app is not an appropriate person to be investing your money with.

Published by Peter Cavicchia

Peter Cavicchia is a retired U.S. Secret Service Senior Executive, now Chairman of the security consulting firm Strategic Services International LLC.

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