With opportunities for meeting potential partners now limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic and many people isolated due to lockdown measures, use of dating apps has soared. Dating apps have long provided scammers with opportunities for fraud and romance scams are rife. However, there have been increasing numbers of dating app users targeted with a new investment scam in recent weeks, prompting Interpol to issue a Purple Notice about the scam.
As with many other dating app scams, the attackers first make contact with users, chat and build up a rapport, and when contact with the potential victim is regular and a certain degree of trust is established, the scammers convince their targets to take part in an investment opportunity.
They are convinced to download an investment app or create investment accounts on websites and deposit funds. While the investment apps appear very similar to the genuine apps they mimic, they are under the control of the scammers. The domain names used to distribute the apps closely resemble genuine investment websites and screenshots are often provided to encourage users to take part in the investment scheme which are realistic and believable.
Once funds are deposited, users can track their investments and see large increases from their initial investment in a short space of time. The aim is to encourage the user to deposit larger sums. Victims are encouraged to purchase cryptocurrencies, stocks and bonds, and binary options, and are made to believe they will easily be able to achieve Gold or VIP status. The scammers also pose as customer service agents and offer help choosing the right products. Once a certain amount of money has been deposited, all contact suddenly stops and the dating app users find themselves locked out of their investment accounts.
The Purple Notice has been sent to 194 countries to raise awareness of the scam with dating app users and to encourage them to be vigilant when using the apps. Interpol said the losses to these scams can be considerable, with some victims defrauded out of more than $100,000.