June 15, 2024

Increasingly, online scammers are duping dating app and website users into unintentional subscription payments through “free” online verification services.

In Phoenix, as in many places, some of us have made the common blunder of letting subscription payments slip past us. These underhanded fraudsters specifically target dating websites and apps users, manipulating them into parting with their hard-earned money.

According to the FBI, scammers are employing a covert strategy of tricking users into signing up for recurrent payments via an alleged “free” online verification service. This isn’t your standard romance scam where the fraudster seduces the victim into wiring a substantial amount. Instead, it’s more insidious and leaves the victim vulnerable to a range of other crimes in the future.

Initially, the scammer matches with an individual on a dating app or website. They establish rapport with the victim before moving the conversation to an encrypted messaging platform.

Under the guise of prioritizing safety, the scammer shares a link with the victim that leads them to a supposed “free” verification site. These sites purport to guard users from becoming entangled with undesirable elements, such as sex offenders or murderers.

Despite appearances, such as articles and other links which seem to validate the website, these sites are simply a façade.

The website then prompts the victim to disclose personal information like their name, contact number, email address, and eventually credit card details.

Upon providing this information, the victim begins noticing unrecognized subscription charges appearing on their monthly credit card statement.

The FBI offers these tips to insulate oneself from such frauds:

* Shun clicking on links, downloading files, or opening attachments from individuals you’ve only met online. Only open attachments from trusted sources and ensure to conduct virus checks when possible.
* Refrain from relocating the conversation from a credible dating site’s messaging service, as many provide some security features.
* Report dubious user profiles to the dating site administrator and halt all interaction with such users.
* Be wary of individuals you’ve just met online who profess love too quickly, express a dire need for help, or entice you with suggestive pictures and provocative texts. Scammers exploit such social behavior to con you and deplete your savings.
* Refrain from providing sensitive data to individuals you’ve only recently met online. Regularly review your financial accounts for anomalies, such as reoccurring charges to unidentifiable businesses.
* At the earliest, contact your credit card issuer or bank if you detect a potential fraudulent transaction. Explore the option of closing that credit card.
* For new online services, consider using a credit card with a limited balance, or perhaps virtual credit cards.
* Avoid sites that use scare tactics to strong-arm you into signing up for a service. Devote time to verify the credibility of any information source.
* To stay informed about current fraud schemes, follow the FBI IC3 website, or other financial government sites.

If you encounter any fraudulent, suspicious, or online criminal activity, the FBI urges you to file a report at www.ic3.gov.

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### Frequently Asked Questions

1. **What is this new scam on dating apps?**
– Fraudsters are employing “free” online verification services to trick dating app and website users into recurrent payments. These scammers begin by establishing rapport with the victim on the dating platform and later move the conversation to an encrypted messaging service. The scammer then shares a link with the victim to a “free” verification service under the disguise of prioritizing safety. Wary of initiating a relationship with a predator, the victim willingly provides personal details, including credit card information, which leads to unauthorized monthly charges.

2. **How can I protect myself from such scams?**
– You can safeguard yourself by avoiding clicking on links or downloading files from unknown senders. Keep conversations on the dating app’s messaging service and report any suspicious profiles. Be cautious of anyone professing love too quickly or sending provocative images and texts. Never share sensitive information with someone you just met online and monitor your financial accounts regularly for unusual charges. Contact your bank immediately if you spot suspicious activity.

3. **What should I do if I fall victim to such a scam?**
– If you become a victim, contact your credit card issuer or bank immediately. Explore the possibility of closing that credit card. Report the fraudulent activity to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at [www.ic3.gov](https://www.ic3.gov/).