Swiping into a scam: How dating sites can be a fertile ground for financial fraud – Lifestyle News

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When Shreya Datta (37) met Ancel on the dating app Hinge, there was little to be suspicious about. Ancel introduced himself as a Philadelphia-based French wine trader to the Philadelphia-based techie. The conversations swiftly moved to WhatsApp, and selfies and video calls followed. Ancel even deleted his Hinge profile to offer Datta his full attention, a rarity online. However, amid all this, Ancel also sold her a dream, which made Datta download a cryptocurrency trading app from the link he shared, and invest all her savings and retirement funds, a sum totaling $450,000 (approximately Rs 3.6 crore). While Datta’s early gains gave her much confidence, scepticism arose when the crypto app demanded a personal tax to withdraw her funds.

As Datta contacted her brother, who did a reverse image search of Ancel’s pictures, it turned out that those were of a German fitness influencer. In short, the techie had fallen victim to a fraud involving deepfake images and videos, fake cryptos, and dating apps, a con that cost Datta $450,000, while also putting her in debt.

What Datta had fallen for is a classic case of pig-butchering. Here, the victim is first feigned with friendship, love, and companionship before the perpetrator goes for the kill — siphoning off money through fake investment schemes, such as fake cryptocurrency. Dating apps, which are a fertile ground for AI-generated deepfakes and disinformation, are often the site of such scams. However, social media platforms also often serve as the medium. What’s even worse is often victims further fall prey to fake recovery agents.

How pig-butchering is carried out is simple: The perpetrator makes a fake social media or dating profile and lures the victim through friendly or romantic overtures before going for the kill, luring them to make fake investments and siphoning off the sum. Last month Nithin Kamath, co-founder of the online stock trading platform Zerodha, too, sounded caution over the same.

Taking to X, he wrote, “After the Chinese loan apps scam, the latest scam from actors in China and other Asian countries is phishing websites. Fraudsters are creating hundreds of websites and trading apps that look similar to the websites of Indian brokers. Unwitting users who click on the app download links, etc, will be prompted to download the fake app. The goal is to get people to transfer money by taking advantage of their familiarity with these apps. This is just another one of the hundreds of international scams that have exploded in the last few years.”

“The scale of pig butchering scams in India runs into tens of thousands of crores. It is scary how many people fall for fake job offer scams, scammy high-return investment schemes and crypto investments, etc,” he wrote in a post.

The rise of artificial intelligence and deepfakes, the opacity of cryptocurrencies, along with the mediums and experiences dating sites and social media platforms offer can be a recipe for disaster. However, there are simple ways that one can save oneself from being pig-butchered. Here are some of those:

  • First and foremost, be extremely cautious of responding to texts from unknown people on social media, WhatsApp, or dating sites
  • Since these scams hugely work on emotional manipulation, be vary of such tactics. Avoid reacting as per your emotions and in a hurry
  • Never click on any link, or download an app that the other party shares
  • Avoid investing in any financial deals — cryptos, stocks, etc.
  • Remember, if a deal feels too good to be true, it probably is. Hence, see any promises of good returns or jobs with scepticism
  • When in doubt, consult an expert
  • Never ever share your personal details — financial records, Aadhaar card, investment details, passport, etc.

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