Many perils for online love seekers

February 13, 2015
IBM Security said this week it found 26 of 41 mobile dating apps studied to be vulnerable to cyber-attacks that put personal user information and corporate data at risk

Advice for people seeking love on the Internet for Valentine's Day: keep looking, but watch for scams and other risks.

Security experts say hackers and other malicious actors often use the occasion to target romance-seekers and the lovelorn.

The growing sector of that use has led to new risks, according to researchers.

IBM Security said this week it found 26 of 41 mobile dating apps studied to be vulnerable to cyber-attacks that put personal user information and corporate data at risk.

Many dating applications can give access to a smartphone camera, microphone, storage, location and billing information, according to IBM.

"Many consumers use and trust their mobile phones for a variety of applications. It is this trust that gives hackers the opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities like the ones we found in these dating apps," said IBM Security vice president Caleb Barlow.

Other tried-and-true scam methods, many using email or social networks, can also be effective tools for fraudsters.

Malware, not flowers

Some use electronic greeting cards which infect a computer with malware. Others purport to be florists seeking to verify information for flower delivery.

Romance fraud schemes—mostly aimed at people over 40—consistently make top scam lists, according to the American Association of Retired Persons, which warns people to avoid clicking on links or responding to secret admirers online.

Security experts urge caution when potential dates seem too good to be true, and quickly ask for money or personal information.

Scammers often typically meet their victims online through dating websites or social networking, and eventually ask for money using wire transfers or prepaid money cards, according to a warning from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

DeWine's office said the state had received 90 complaints of "sweetheart" scams, with the average loss at $22,000.

"Victims of this scam think they've found the right person, but often they end up losing thousands of dollars," said Attorney General Mike DeWine.

"Victims of this scam think they've found the right person, but often they end up losing thousands of dollars," DeWine said.

"Online dating works well for many people, but you have to be very careful. Don't send money to someone you've never met in person."

DeWine urged people to be cautious when potential dates won't meet in person or claim to be in another country, with an urgent need for money.

An FBI warning from 2014 said the scammers "troll social media sites and chat rooms in search of romantic victims—usually claim to be Americans traveling or working abroad."

The most common targets are women over 40 who are divorced, widowed, or disabled, "but every age group and demographic is at risk," the FBI said.

It's not only in America: the City of London police said fraud in Britain rose 33 percent in 2014, costing a total of 34 million pounds ($52 million).

There was a significant rise in fraud cases from April to May 2014, "suggesting that in the blissful wake of Valentine's Day people may become more susceptible to romance scams," the London police statement said.

Explore further: Online scams cost $485 mn in US in 2011: survey

Related Stories

Romance scams online hit hundreds of thousands of victims

September 27, 2011

New online research led by the University of Leicester reveals that over 200,000 people living in Britain may have fallen victim to online romance scams – far more than had been previously estimated. The study is believed ...

Online dating scammers looking for money, not love

March 28, 2012

Online romance scams, a new form of cybercrime, is under-reported and increasing, and has victimized an estimated 230,000 people in England, costing them nearly $60 billion a year, according to an article in Cyberpsychology, ...

Recommended for you

Galactic center visualization delivers star power

March 21, 2019

Want to take a trip to the center of the Milky Way? Check out a new immersive, ultra-high-definition visualization. This 360-movie offers an unparalleled opportunity to look around the center of the galaxy, from the vantage ...

Physicists reveal why matter dominates universe

March 21, 2019

Physicists in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University have confirmed that matter and antimatter decay differently for elementary particles containing charmed quarks.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Returners
not rated yet Feb 14, 2015
The majority of online profiles are con artists. You will need to pretty much expect the first day or two of talking to anyone, on any site, to be a set-up for a con, so don't be surprised when it happens to you. in some cases, the entire website may be in on the conning, it can be hard to tell sometimes.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.