Dating-Related Spam Hits Users’ Inboxes amid Holiday Season

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Romance scammers are on the prowl this Christmas, attempting to catfish lonely hearts and individuals who are isolated from friends and family.

Although online romance scams happen all year round, loneliness during the holiday season makes people particularly vulnerable to con artists posing as potential love interests on dating platforms.

Dating and spam

In this week’s spam analysis, Bitdefender researchers spotted tens of thousands of unsolicited emails targeting users of online dating services. On Dec. 18, Bitdefender telemetry shows a spike in spam topics relating to online dating, encompassing 9% of incoming spam by volume.

We expect this trend to continue beyond the holiday season.

The email subjects notify recipients of potential dating partners who live nearby, providing details such as ages and usernames. Others lure users with message notifications alongside more adult-themed requests.

Dating and adult content spam landing in your inboxes poses various security risks. Even though most of the scam emails we’ve noticed are not affiliated with popular dating platforms and apps, the messages provide just enough information to catch one’s interest. Unfortunately, the so-called dating opportunity or profile does not exist. It’s just a ruse to get you to click on malicious or fraudulent links asking you to fill out your credit card information to gain access and continue chatting with your “date.”

Your Christmas sweetheart could be a fraud

Dating during the coronavirus pandemic has been tough, with travel and social distancing in various stages throughout the year. Despite the obstacles, romantic relationships have been kindled overnight on online dating apps, websites or social media. But are they the real deal?

Christmas is the perfect time for your internet “soul mate” to reveal his or her dark side to exploit your emotions and steal your money.  According to an FBI report, romance scams inflicted losses of over $130 million, with many victims conned by individuals offering phony investment opportunities among other scams.

Time can mend a broken heart, but it won’t restore your wallet

Scammers are quite active on online dating sites and social media, where they attempt to exploit people’s emotions to steal money.

According to a BBB report, 1 in 7 dating profiles you interact with may be fake, with one expert reporting that approximately 25,000 scammers can be in an active online relationship with victims at any given time.

While some scammers set up fake profiles using stolen photos and made-up names to swindle unsuspecting victims out of their cash, others can assume the identities of real individuals. Once you’re hooked, they will always make up an excuse to not meet you in person, including the coronavirus.

As a rule of thumb, always consider the possibility that your online love interest is trying to scam you. Here are five tips for online dating during the holiday season:

  • Don’t give your bank account, credit card number, or other personally identifiable information to individuals you meet online. Cease communication if you are asked to send cash or gift cards.
  • Never send money to someone you haven’t met, no matter what sophisticated story they pitch to you.
  • Do a reverse image search of a profile picture to help you spot an imposter profile.
  • Don’t give too much information when setting up an online dating profile or provide links to your social media profile on the platform. The information can help the con artist steal your money
  • Report any suspicious behavior to the online dating app or service and immediately contact the police if you are a victim

Bitdefender’s Digital Identity Protection tool helps you take control and minimize your digital footprint by continuously monitoring for data breaches, leaks, and social media impersonators that may ruin your reputation.