While many youngsters are finding their partners through dating apps, scammers are using them to find new victims of financial fraud. Recently, there has been an alarming rise in cyber frauds through dating apps, wherein fraudsters threaten to distribute others’ private and sensitive material or other sexual content and ask for money in return. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has named this new mode of financial frauds “sextortion” and recently issued a warning after complaints from users of some dating sites.
A recent paper published in the journal, Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health in 2020, said that using the strategy of "testing-the-water", scammers ask the victims for small gifts, usually to ensure the continuance of the relationship, such as a webcam. Eventually, they start asking for more expensive gifts and even large sums of money.
The situation is no different in India. Recently, a 27-year-old entrepreneur from Gurgaon got scammed after registering on a dating app and ended up paying nearly Rs 65 lakh, according to media reports.
These scams don’t just happen on dating apps, but also on other social media platforms where you get to chat with strangers. Here’s what you should do if you find yourself in trouble and how to avoid such scams in the first place.
Lodge A Complaint Immediately
Legal experts point out that such frauds are on the rise in India as many people refrained from lodging police complaints in case of such frauds. “Often there is a mental blockage as people fear if others get to know that the person was on dating apps, then the society will judge them,” says Bivas Chatterjee, cyber law expert and special public prosecutor for cybercrime cases.
Although dating apps are quite popular and commonly used in other countries, Indians are still to take to it. Plus, complaints of trafficking on dating apps are a deterrent. “If dating app is considered equivalent to prostitution or trafficking, then the whole set-up will be illegal,” adds Chatterjee.
But one should never refrain from lodging a police complaint.
Identify The Red Flags At The Beginning Itself
To start with, it’s important to choose an app carefully. As of now, there is no legal government registration process for such apps, so it might be a little tricky to figure out which apps are authentic and which ones are fake.
“There is no legal way to do that. But the best way to choose such apps is to check for reviews and feedbacks. For any web-based services, always check the Google reviews and reviews on any other platforms. Do a background check for any apps or websites by checking any sort of details available on web. For apps, always read the app reviews on play store,” says Chatterjee.
Moreover, fake accounts on dating apps are not unusual and, therefore, users need to be cautious when using them and interacting with strangers. If you meet someone on the app but have no way to figure out their identity, be wary of sharing a lot of personal and financial details. Besides, it may be much more heart-warming to give a gift to someone in person rather than sending online.
It’s easy to become emotional and fall prey to a scam, so make some ground rules for yourself before signing up for any dating app.