By Jeff Pizzino, APR, Corp. Communications –
Sometimes the love of money trumps the love of people. No wonder it’s referred to as “the root of all evil.”
People join online dating websites to meet new people and even perhaps find “true love.”
But there are some bad apples with nefarious intentions among the 366 million users of online dating websites. They’re there simply to see who they can get to fall for their financial scams.
Financial Scammers on Dating Websites
In 2022, Netflix aired “The Tinder Swindler.” This two-hour true-crime documentary tells the story of how serial fraudster Simon Leviev conned an estimated $10 million out of three women he attracted on the popular dating app, Tinder.
Leviev claimed he worked in a dangerous diamond business and was the son of billionaire Israeli diamond oligarch Lev Leviev.
In another 2022 story, this one on click2houston.com, a 78-year-old man from Annandale, Va. was seeking companionship. He turned to iFlirt, a social network. Someone claiming to be a widowed woman from New York in her 30s showed interest.
The online relationship grew. And so did the lies and deceptions. The woman said she was arrested while traveling to Germany to retrieve an inheritance of gold bars. She asked the man for money to make bail. He complied. Then she sent another message asking for more money because she was arrested again.
This elderly man was eventually bilked out of half a million dollars.
Unfortunately, romance scams are growing at an alarming rate.
In just the past five years in the U.S., dating app users have reported losing $1.3 billion to romance scams. According to the FTC, romance scams increased by 80% in 2021 compared to the previous year.
And it’s not just Americans being romanced out of their money. Some 34% of Australians say they’ve incurred a financial loss in dating websites. In 2020, Canadians lost $18.5 million to romance scams.
Is it Real Love… or Real Danger?
How can you avoid being cheated out of your money while meeting others online?
A June 27, 2023 article on the website MakeUseOf.com titled, “How to Spot and Avoid an Online Dating Scammer: 9 Red Flags” gave these warning signs to watch for:
- Vague, Limited Profiles
- They Quickly Try to Take the Conversation Elsewhere
- Your Match Professes Love Early On
- They Avoid Meet-Ups
- They Avoid Video Chat Completely
- Requests for Money
- They Ask for Your Help with Financial Transactions
- They Send You a Link to Another Service or Website
- They Ask You to Invest
A High-Tech Scammer Catcher
Now dating websites can provide a safer experience for their users by integrating a new, high-tech solution into their platform during the new user registration process to help catch those with ill intentions.
A new truth verification mobile app called VerifEye by Utah tech company Converus can help dating websites rat out financial scammers before their profile is made public. This 10-minute, self-administered test can verify the truthfulness of an individual’s profile by using the cell phone’s camera. During a true/false test, it detects deception by measuring changes in involuntary eye behavior — such as pupil dilation and blink rate.
Issuing a VerifEye test is simple. The dating website simply sends a unique VerifEye test link via email or text to the person. After the user clicks the link, the app downloads and the test begins. At the conclusion of the test, algorithms will determine if the person has passed or failed.
By dating websites making this small investment, they can help assure its users an online acquaintance is legit — and not planning to trap someone in a financial scam. Dating sites could even offer a premium service featuring users vetted with VerifEye.
Of course, if any dating website user refuses to take this test during the onboarding process, then the app has likely already done its job.
VerifEye, released last month in the U.S., can also be used to verify fidelity or sobriety. EyeCanKnow, a U.S.-based company, has launched an online service for addiction recovery centers, therapists or anyone who needs a test to quickly verify the fidelity or sobriety of a client, partner, or loved one.