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Beware! Your ‘friend’ from dating app may take all your money away

Of late, mobile dating applications have become popular among people looking for a suitable match online. However, security agencies have cautioned that these so-called ‘friends’ found on these applications may be part of a sinister racket and instead of getting a match, you may end up losing your money.

The International Police (INTERPOL) has received several complaints from different countries in which people were defrauded on online dating applications.

In the latest, the INTERPOL has now issued a ‘Purple Notice’ to its 194 member countries, outlining a specific modus operandi used on these dating applications to trick people.

An INTERPOL ‘Purple Notice’ is issued to seek or provide information on modus operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals.

The threat through these dating applications involves taking advantage of people’s vulnerabilities as they look for potential matches, and luring them into a sophisticated fraud scheme.

“In the initial stages, an artificial romance is established via a dating app. Once communication becomes regular and a certain level of trust is established, criminals share investment tips with their victims and encourage them to join a scheme,” the INTERPOL said.

In a “very sophisticated and organised manner”, victims are asked to download a trading app and open an account.

Then, the person from other side asks them to buy various financial products and work their way up a so-called investment chain, all under the watchful eye of their new ‘friend’. They are made to believe they can reach ‘Gold’ or ‘VIP’ status in the investment ladder.

“As is often the case with such fraud schemes, everything is made to look legitimate. Screenshots are provided, domain names are eerily similar to real websites, and customer service agents pretend to help victims choose the right products,” the INTERPOL added.

The modus operandi, according to INTERPOL, is such that one day all contacts stop and the victims are locked out of the account. “They’re left confused, hurt, and worried that they’ll never see their money again.”

INTERPOL’s Financial Crimes Unit has received reports from around the world of this scam and is encouraging dating app users to be vigilant, sceptical and safe when entering into online relationships.

This has become especially important as people turn to online interactions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

INTERPOL has also issued some tips to ensure online dating remains fun and doesn’t empty your bank account:

Always be vigilant when you are approached by someone you don’t know, especially if it leads to a request for money.

  • Be sceptical: online investments with promises of fast, amazing returns are often too good to be true.
  • Think twice before transferring money, however genuine the request might seem.
  • Do your research: check reviews, double check the app, the domain name, the email address, etc.
  • Don’t disclose personal and confidential information.
  • If you realise you’ve been the victim of a fraud, report it.

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