By Anil Rachamalla
Social media creates an opportunity for young women and men living in socially conservative non-western societies to be able to communicate and meet and engage in forbidden intimacies and forbidden behaviours.
You can be a highly intelligent person with a good job, but the strategies the dating fraudsters use are highly sophisticated, beware that there are so many pitfalls to online dating, it could be fake profiles, unclear motives, unbalanced emotional people, unclear past behaviour and mostly those are the people who are on the lookout for just sexual relationship and many times we have seen, they use these relations to extort money from you.
Most of the victims are middle-aged men and women from well-to-do upper-middle-class families who are well educated and have access to technology and the scammers are on the lookout for the rich, who are lonely or divorced or interested in same-sex relationships.
Some of the popularly used Dating Apps in India are Lamour, Tantan, Happn, Tinder, WHO, OkCupid, Woo Dating, Facat, Bumble, and Meetville.
Types of dating scams
(a) Proposal turns extortion – Scammers call and extort money on the pretext of having victim’s sex recordings.
(b) Pretty woman is a man – You get fooled by the fake profiles and stolen photos of attractive women. Scammers threaten to keep all conversations on social media, by tagging all your near and dear.
(c) Making gay man pay – Indian taboo against the same-sex relationship is taken as an advantage and we hear terrifying tales of rapes and extortion.
(d) I have your sex recording – Dating friends get on to online explicit conversations and acts and then later the scammer extorts money for having the sex recordings.
App’s based dating scam
- You download a dating app from Play Store.
- You get text /voice/video messages from girls and you can’t reply. You need to be a paid subscriber to unlock the chat feature. Messages you received are very generic and mostly are BOT managed texts/pre-recorded voice messages/video messages.
- Victims pay to reply to a text, voice, and video chats.
The girls are recruited/trained by agencies and they are incentivised in a manner i.e. paid based on how much time they can extend their conversations with subscribers on the dating apps.
Tips to identify the dating frauds
- Planning to date with someone, you must opt for a thorough online background check.
- Don’t open links sent by someone whom you have not met, these links can install malware and control your webcam and capture your private moments.
- Requests for money over dating site with good storytelling i.e. family members unwell or processing visas or sending gifts.
- Scammers are usually adept at copying stuff (fancy profiles) from other websites and start blindly using them for communication.
- Inconsistencies between their dating profiles when compared to public social media profiles
- Interested in engaging in intimate activities online or someone is trying to flirt or come nude in a live session.
How to safeguard yourself
- Never indulge in online chatting, dating, or get emotionally involved with people without verifying who they are
- Never send money or your personal details to online strangers or online social media friends.
- Never communicate outside the dating website or social media platform after only a few chats/conversations
- You can do a reverse image check on www.inages.google.com or www.tineye.com to check if the photo is claimed on social media profiles.
- No sharing of intimate pictures or videos online. Scammers are known to blackmail their targets using past shared pictures or videos of you that you don’t want others to see.
Report a dating fraud
Register at https://cybercrime.gov.in/. You will be required to use register via OTP from a valid Indian number. Select the category “Report Crime related to women or children” (a) Upload the screenshots of the conversation from social media & messaging platforms (b) Copy the URLs of the social media channels (c) Screenshots/statements of financial transactions.
Stay Tuned to Cyber Talk Column, to know more about “Internet Ethics and Digital Wellness” brought to you by Anil Rachamalla, End Now Foundation, www.endnowfoundation.org