Let’s face it – online dating has always been a bit of a circus. Between ghosting, catfishing and breadcrumbing, it’s a wonder anyone finds romance at all. It’s safe to say online dating is a downright chore these days.
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Remember those cringe-worthy dinner dates where you dropped a hundred bucks only to realize you’d never see the person again? Yeah, that was bad. But now there’s a new threat in town that makes those expensive meals feel like chump change. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill “send me a gift card” hustle.
We’re talking about crypto-romance scams, a cruel blend of heartstrings and purse strings, served with a side of bitter cryptocurrency regret. So, who’s behind these horrible scams you ask? They’re usually run by criminal gangs in Asia in what’s known as a “pig butchering” scam.
Florida man scammed for nearly half a million dollars
Take, for instance, the case of a hapless Floridian who found himself caught in this new digital web. Using OkCupid, a popular online dating platform, he met what he thought was a potential romantic interest. As their relationship blossomed, she asked for some help in the form of Bitcoin, to be sent via Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, according to cybernews.com.
Smitten and unsuspecting, the man went through the hoops of buying Bitcoin, transferring it to Binance, and sending it to the woman he’s started to care about. Only after the virtual coins had left his digital wallet did he realize he’d been duped out of $480,000. The woman he thought he was getting to know? Poof. Gone. All that’s left is a heart heavier than his now-empty cryptocurrency wallet.
How romance scams exploit vulnerability and deceive victims
Let’s dive a bit deeper into the mechanics of this crypto-romance scam and how an ordinary person can be scammed out of nearly half a million dollars.
The scammer starts by establishing a relationship online, often through a dating platform like OkCupid. They create a compelling, believable persona and engage in regular, friendly conversation with the victim, building an emotional connection over time.
The financial distress story
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Once a level of trust has been built, the scammer introduces a problem that requires financial help. They might say they’re facing personal difficulties, have a family emergency, or are in some sort of financial crisis.
Introduction of cryptocurrency
The scammer then suggests that the fastest or most convenient way for them to receive financial help is through cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin. They guide the victim in purchasing and transferring the cryptocurrency, often using a popular exchange like Binance, Coinbase or any of the others.
The victim, believing they’re helping someone they care about, purchases the cryptocurrency and sends it to the scammer’s digital wallet. This action requires some tech savviness. A person would first need to give you a long string of numbers and digits in order for you to send it anywhere. These numbers and digits represent another person’s digital wallet. Think of it like a bank account and sending a direct deposit via a checking and routing number. A few steps are involved, yet overall the process is fairly quick, with the funds landing in the receiving wallet almost instantaneously and permanently.
The vanishing act
Once the scammer receives the cryptocurrency, they disappear. The victim is left out of pocket, and since cryptocurrency transactions are irreversible and anonymous, they have little recourse for getting their money back. However, with advancements in tech and forensics, investigators have been successful in retrieving funds from previous scammers in the past. Unfortunately, this option remains extremely costly and reserved for those with unlimited resources leaving ordinary folks with few options.
How to protect yourself against these scams
How do we guard our hearts and our wallets in this new era of crypto-romance scams?
Vigilance in online dating
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In the digital world, not everyone is who they claim to be. Be wary of potential romantic interests who ask for money or gifts or those who want to move the relationship along too quickly. Keep your personal and financial information private, and never share it with someone you haven’t met in person.
Verify the identity
Request additional information or proof to verify their identity, such as video chatting or meeting in person if possible. Exercise caution before getting emotionally invested in someone you haven’t met in real life.
Research and verify
Conduct an online search using the person’s name, email address, or phone number to see if any suspicious or fraudulent activities are associated with them. Reverse image search their profile pictures to check if they are stolen from elsewhere on the internet. You can also reverse-search their phone number for free by following the instructions found here.
To understand crypto, you might have to read a few books. However, the gist of it is simple enough. Cryptocurrency transactions are irreversible. Once the money is sent, it’s gone. Understand the risks involved (there are many), and never agree to send money via cryptocurrency unless you’re absolutely certain of where and to whom it’s going.
Report suspicious activity
If you find yourself on the wrong end of a scam, don’t keep it to yourself. Report it to the dating site, local law enforcement, and any relevant cybercrime units. You could help stop someone else from falling into the same trap.
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Use reputable dating platforms
Stick to well-known and reputable dating websites or apps with security measures to help protect their users from scams. These platforms often have guidelines for safe online dating and report suspicious users.
Trust your instincts
If something feels off or too good to be true, trust your gut instincts. Take your time in getting to know someone before sharing personal information or becoming emotionally involved.
Invest in personal information removal services
I highly recommend you remove your personal information that can be found on various people search sites across the web. If you give someone your email address or phone number, they could potentially reverse-search your information and get your home address.
While no service promises to remove all your data from the internet, having a removal service is great if you want to constantly monitor and automate the process of removing your information from hundreds of sites continuously over a longer period of time.
WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER GIVE SOMEONE YOUR PHONE NUMBER ON DATING APPS
Kurt’s key takeaways
See my tips and best picks for removing yourself from the internet by heading to Cyberguy.com/Delete
Keeping our hearts and wallets safe in this wild ride of online dating and cryptocurrency dabbling can feel like a high-wire act without a safety net. Remember, a dash of caution, a sprinkle of knowledge, and a hearty dose of common sense can keep us balanced. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, right? So, let’s keep our wits about us as we navigate these tricky waters.
With that in mind, here’s a thought: as we’re juggling the search for genuine digital Romeos while dodging smooth-talking crypto Casanovas, how do we ensure we’re not the next victim of a swindle? How do we keep our hearts open but our digital wallets locked tight?
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What precautions do you take to protect yourself from online romance scams? Share your tips and experiences with us by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact
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