BEWARE OF ROMANCE SCAMS
In the current digital times, where even intimate relationships can be formed online, it is necessary that people come to terms with the fact that all that meets the eye cannot be real in an online world. Instances of a prospective life partner whom you meet online turning out to be a fraudster and a seemingly reliable online friend turning out to be offenders are abound. It is therefore essential that digital users exercise care and caution as well as become aware and alert while interacting online, to save themselves from a broken heart and hole in the purse.
An online romance scam takes place when a fraudster traps a victim using a fake profile and convinces them to part with their hard earned money on some pretext.
- Trapped into fake online relations
- Loss of Money
- Heart break
Probable causes (of online romance scams)
- Relying on online dating platforms like tinder,bumble etc., for partners.
- Fake profiles on matrimonial sites
- Increased usage of online social meeting apps like facebook dating, extra-marital dating apps like Gleeden etc.,
- Loneliness or anxiety due to isolation, especially in covid times
Though anyone may fall victim to this scam, the following are often observed to be victimized
- Women * Middle-aged people * Widowers
- People with romantic idealization
- People with impulsiveness and relational addiction
A fraudster operating with a fake profile makes contact with potential victim (and establishes a fake relation/bond.)
The fraudster establishes a strong bond with their empathetic and affectionate approach towards the victim.
The fraudster convinces or makes the victims obliged to send them money online using means like gift cards, UPI payment, bank transfer, reloadable debit cards etc., on some pretext.
- They may seek money due to emergency like accident, hospitalization etc.,
- They may ask them to invest money in bogus schemes
- They may convince you about good investment scheme like cryptocurrencies etc.,
Over time after extracting the money, they may avoid the victim completely and dump them.
(* Intimate pictures share during the course of interaction may also be used by fraudster to extort money from victim*)
- Friend requests from unknown people
- Expressing feeling of affection and love too soon in an online relation
- Being very empathetic and obliging
- Avoiding meeting in person
- Mismatch in the details shared when verified closely
- Seeking financial help and making requests for money/gifts on some pretext.
Hypothetical Case Study
Latha was a successful software engineer in her 30’s working in Hyderabad. She had created an online profile on a popular matrimony site to find a suitable groom to her liking. When Rohan contacted her, Latha checked his profile online where it was mentioned that he was a highly placed officer in a Government Organization, and his family was respectable and well to do. Impressed with the profile she pursued the match with approval of her family. After some time Rohan requested Latha to help him with some money as he was in dire need of it. Trusting him, Latha helped him out with a lot of money. It was latter on when suddenly Rohan went untraceable and had switched off his mobile totally, that she identified something was wrong. After approaching the police department, she came to know that ‘Raghuveer’ alias ‘Rohan’ was actually a fraudster who trapped woman for money and committed crimes.
- Check the authenticity of the dating app or matrimonial site before registering and create a new email id for registering.
- It is preferable that you do not share your personal details like mobile no., residential address on matrimonial sites or dating sites openly/publicly.
- Never share any private picture or bank account or other financial details with people you have met recently.
- Have a thorough end to end back ground check taking ample time before you decide to proceed in relation. You can also consider taking the help of investigation agency.
- Be very cautious while considering a prospective groom with NRI profile on a matrimonial site.
- Always personally meet the person you have known online at a public place and ask them enough questions.
- Never entertain any requests for money from people you have met online.
- Do not invest in schemes etc., as per the advice received by someone you only met online; be cautious of claims/requests of exclusive investment opportunities with urgency to act fast.
- Always keep a neutral person informed who can gauge and assess the interaction and advise logically.
- Do not provide your banking information, copies of your identification or passport, or any other sensitive information to anyone online or to a site you do not know is legitimate.
- Enable required privacy and security features on social media platforms and keep your information private mostly.
- Ensure that you do not accept the friend requests by strangers on face value without proper verification.
- If you suspect a scam, put an end to the relationship and report about it.
- File a complaint about the scam at your nearest cybercrime cell and online on www.cybercrime.gov.in portal.
- Report or Notify about the scammer on social media site, app,or service where the scam occurred, this may help others from being victim.
- In case you have shared any banking related details, follow the rules and approach the bank for necessary action.
- Go easy on yourself, learn the lesson and move on.