Cybercriminals love easy prey, and dating apps appear to be a hunting ground full of potential victims. There are numerous stories of Tinder and Hinge users who got scammed out of their entire life savings for simply falling in love with the wrong person. Sometimes criminals look for possible missing pieces of a puzzle and launch a quick attack after they’ve gained enough information; other times, victims end up sweet-talking potential victims for months before they strike. Similar to a relationship in real life, falling in love can be a magical experience, but it can also end up costing a fortune. After all, Netflix’s documentary The Tinder Swindler is a true story.
New York Times recently published a story about a 24-year woman who got scammed by another user on Hinge. The man convinced her to “invest” hundreds of thousands of dollars into a phony cryptocurrency exchange. After the money was gone, the woman realized her romance had been a well-planned scam all along. A similar incident happened to a 52-year-old man from Denver who lost more than one and a half million dollars after another dating app user persuaded him to invest in worthless virtual money.
According to the consumer protection data spotlight by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), people have lost approximately $1.3 billion to romance scams over the last five years. In addition, FTC concluded that 2021 saw a significant rise in romance scam reports. The previous year’s reported losses hit a record $547 million for the year, approximately 80% more when compared to reported losses in 2020. If the trend continues this year alone, love-seekers will lose over $1 billion. And those numbers only cover reported incidents – on many occasions, victims are so embarrassed that they end up not telling the authorities.
Tinder decided to act on the alarming statistics and tackle the growing problem by integrating a new in-app background check function. The new offering is powered by Garbo’s non-profit organization and is accessible anywhere in the app via the blue shield symbol. The button not only helps report and/or unmatch a potential fraudster but also lets users perform a background check. Tinder currently offers two background checks for free and up to half a million free searches. After that, background checks cost $2.50 per search. There is also a small processing fee included. All net proceeds go to Garbo so the non-profit organization can cover operational expenses.
Background checks and listening to your gut are vital things to consider before jumping in that Uber ride outside, waiting to take you to your next adventure. Another thing that may be worth considering is having antivirus software installed on your connected devices. Cyber security researchers work day and night, ensuring that users get notified if they get transferred to a suspicious cryptocurrency exchange or try to open a malicious file or website. Finding out that your potential love partner has used a misleading profile picture is disappointing, but what is even worse is ending up being robbed out of your life savings.