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Watch out for romance scams as Valentine's Day approaches

Artificial intelligence and loneliness are just two factors causing victims to lose more money to romance scammers.
Watch out for romance scams as Valentine's Day approaches
Posted at 4:36 PM, Feb 08, 2024

Experts are warning consumers to watch out for romance scams, especially around Valentine’s Day.

“What I’ve seen is a sophistication that’s been evolving,” said Frank Teruel, the chief financial officer of Arkose Labs. He has worked in cybersecurity for more than 20 years.

“The telltale signs that you and I used to rely on — bad grammar, doesn't make sense, context is wrong — those things have been eliminated, and what you get are messages that appear to be incredibly authentic,” he explained.

A record $1.3 billion was lost to romance scams in 2022, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Some of the top lies told by romance scammers include "I or someone close to me is sick, hurt, or in jail," followed by "I can teach you how to invest," data from the FTC found.

Teruel said these scammers build psychology and seasonality into their attacks as well.

“Our cyberthreat intelligence research group, just January to January we saw an almost 2,000% increase in attacks on dating sites,” he said.

Loneliness can play a role. This month, California’s San Mateo County declared loneliness a health emergency. The World Health Organization declared loneliness a global public health concern last year.

SEE MORE: A California county declared loneliness a public health emergency

And as Valentine’s Day approaches, Teruel explained, people seek community during the holiday. This can become a focal point for fraudsters.

Artificial intelligence and voice cloning have made it even more difficult to figure out what’s real and what’s not.

So how can you avoid falling for romance scams on dating apps, social media, and other popular platforms?

“The best way to avoid it is not to bite the shiny hook,” Teruel said.

Make sure you have your guard up and avoid anyone who cannot meet in person, especially if they claim to be in the military or overseas.

“If the conversation immediately goes towards money, red red flag,” he said.

It can also be helpful to do a reverse image search on their profile photo to confirm if they are real.

A lot of sites have safety measures in place to prevent these scammers and bots from reaching out to you, so some fraudsters will try to extract you from the platform you’re interacting on, Teruel explained.

“Pick and interact with platforms that are legit, that have strong bot mitigation vendors and partners,” he said.

The bottom line? Make sure you know who you are talking to, and don’t trust people online with your information or money.

“Too good to be true is probably too good to be true,” Teruel said.

@scrippsnews More than a billion dollars was lost to romance #scams in 2022, according to the Federal Trade Commission. As Valentine’s Day approaches, here are some tips to prevent falling for romance scams. #ValentinesDay ♬ original sound - Scripps News

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