The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) has issued a notice on criminals who have been using dating apps to solicit money from unsuspecting users.
“In the initial stages, an artificial romance is established via a dating app. Once communication becomes regular and a certain level of trust is established, criminals share investment tips with their victims and encourage them to join a scheme.
“Victims download a trading app and open an account, buy various financial products and work their way up a so-called investment chain, all under the watchful eye of their new ‘friend’. They are made to believe they can reach gold or VIP status,” said Interpol.
The criminals make everything look legitimate by providing screenshots, domain names that are similar to real websites, and customer service agents who pretend to help victims choose the right products.
Once they have the information, all contact stops and victims are locked out of the account.
“Interpol’s financial crimes unit has received reports from around the world of this scam and is encouraging dating app users to be vigilant, be sceptical and be safe when entering into online relationships.
“This has become especially important as people turn to online interactions during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Interpol has warned people to think twice before transferring money – however genuine the request might seem – to double-check the app, the domain name, the email address and not disclose personal information.
If, however, they do fall victim of fraud, users are advised to report it, said Tomonobu Kaya, financial crimes coordinator at Interpol.
“The first course of action should always be for the victim to contact their bank, inform them that the transaction was fraudulent and urge them to make a recall request on their dedicated bank-to-bank communication system to the beneficiary bank abroad,” he said.
On receipt of a recall request, the bank that emitted the fraudulent transfer will send a message requesting cancellation of the payment to the beneficiary bank by following the same route taken by the victim’s money.
As long as the funds have not already been withdrawn from the beneficiary bank by the perpetrators, there is a good chance that the funds can be blocked and refunded.
Compiled by Vhahangwele Nemakonde