Feeling flirty? Beware Valentine's conmen on the web

Feeling flirty? Beware Valentine's conmen on the web
Feeling flirty? Beware Valentine's conmen on the web
Image: 123RF/pixelbliss

Scam artists are ready to prey on lonely hearts looking for love as Valentine’s Day approaches‚ the South African Fraud Prevention Service said on Thursday.

"While the Internet houses a large number of dating sites that may well serve their purpose‚ there are many that abound with romance scams‚" it cautioned.

In South Africa there has been a significant growth in this type of scam due to the proliferation of social media sites‚ not necessarily those set up for dating‚ according to Manie van Schalkwyk‚ head of the fraud prevention service.

“Scammers typically seek out individuals who are older than 50‚ either single or in difficult relationships‚ who are looking for romance.

“. . . It’s not hard for these people to target the emotionally vulnerable as people reveal much about themselves on social media sites‚” he said.

The scammer entices a prospective date with endearing messages that make the victim feel loved‚ Van Schalkwyk said. This is the technique that inspires trust and leads the perpetrator to ask for a gift or money‚ or a favour of some kind. In many situations the person will promise a meeting‚ but this never materialises.

In two recent cases‚ an Internet fraud syndicate operating out of Pretoria stole over R70 million from hundreds of women‚ with a man posing as a US soldier‚ while in Cape Town‚ six accomplices were arrested for online dating fraud.

Men are also at increasing risk. TimesLive reported last year on a survey by global cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab which assessed the responses of 6‚458 online dating users from 30 countries - including 500 people in South Africa. It warned that men are ready to share personal information about themselves much faster than women are. Female users are likely to share information after "several months"‚ while men are significantly more likely to hand over their personal details after just "minutes or hours".

Due to an increase in online scams affecting South Africans‚ the SAFPs intends to launch a dedicated area on its website www.safps.org.za to collect reports about scams‚ at the end of the second quarter of 2018.

The South African Centre for Information Security‚ meanwhile‚ advises "if you send money to someone you haven't met‚ the money will be gone‚ along with the person you thought you knew".

When to block that date‚ according to the centre:

- He wants to leave the dating site immediately and use your personal email or IM. - She claims love in a heartbeat. - He claims to be from South Africa.‚ but is currently overseas. - She plans to visit‚ but is prevented by a traumatic event.

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