NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — With millions of people using dating apps, some con artists are looking to take advantage of the mystery surrounding the cyber world.
According to statistics from the website Business of Apps, in 2020, more than 270 million people used dating apps around the world.
The Better Business Bureau said they have seen an uptick in people claiming they have become victim of a new kind of romance scam – blackmailing.
The BBB warns dating app users against sending revealing photos or videos. After sending a photo of themselves, the scammer then asks the victim to do the same. Once they get that photo, they use your phone number or social media profile to look up names of people you know and threaten to contact them with those pictures.
BBB said as reported by the FTC, this particular scam has been circulating widely on dating apps common with the LGBTQ community, such as Grindr and Feeld.
In one incident report from the BBB, a victim said after a compromising video call, a man and woman both started demanding $3,000 from her or they would expose the video to her family and friends.
BBB wants to remind people that scammers often ask for payment via gift card or wired funds, which can’t be traced and makes it impossible to get back.
With this scam in particular, BBB said the con artists will likely continue contacting you asking for more money.
Here are some preventative steps people can take to avoid this kind of scam:
- Never share your personal information with someone you just met. Don’t give your cell phone number, home address, email address, or even your social media profile to a stranger. Wait until you know and trust a person, preferably when you’ve already met them in person.
- Research your love interest. One telltale sign you’re dealing with a scammer is a stolen profile picture. Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture to make sure it isn’t being used under a different name or on multiple profiles.
- Think before you send photos or videos. Once you send a photo or video, you cannot get it back. Keep in mind that even video calls can be recorded, and use good judgement to protect your reputation.
- Don’t pay money to scammers. Even if you pay them, you have no guarantee that scammers won’t use the photos or videos anyway. Plus, your money could be funding criminal activity.
If you’ve been the victim of an extortion scam, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Submit a report to BBB.org/ScamTracker as well to boost community awareness and help others protect themselves.