Since cryptocurrency has become popular, scams have been rampant throughout the industry, and now dating apps have become a prime target for such cybercriminals looking to get their hands on other people’s crypto.

But why are catfishers keen on crypto? And how are they cheating people out of their cash?

Why are criminals targeting dating sites and apps?

The fact that dating apps are just an open door through which cyber criminals can reach vulnerable individuals plays a big role in how popular crypto dating scams have become. People on dating apps are usually looking for love, and so they are more willing to let their guard down than usual. Therefore, if a cyber criminal can successfully manipulate someone’s emotions on a dating platform, it becomes very easy to scam them.

Of course, cryptocurrency is also anonymous, and not as legally protected as traditional tender. These factors make decentralized digital currencies highly desirable to criminals. Scammers can also reach a wide range of age demographics through dating apps, so it is very easy to target young, older, or otherwise vulnerable individuals.

Certain operating systems are also more vulnerable to dating app scams. For example, in Asia, people using iPhones are more at risk of these scams because cyber criminals take advantage of Apple’s Super Signature Distribution feature to gain access and target Apple users. Through this method alone, scammers have already swindled victims out of more than $1.4 million worth of cryptocurrency.

With these alleged opportunities and perks for cybercriminals, it is no surprise that people have already lost tens or even hundreds of thousands through these so-called “cryptorom” (or cryptocurrency romantic) scams.

Popular apps like Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and Grindr are full of criminals looking to make a quick buck, and people in the US, Europe and Asia have been affected so far, but they are spreading around the world. For example, there is also a popular crypto dating scam being carried out in Nigeria, in which victims are persuaded to invest in a particular crypto website.

But how exactly are cyber criminals committing these crypto crimes?

How are cybercriminals scamming through dating sites and apps?

There are various ways through which a cyber criminal can scam someone on a dating service.

One particularly common method is to persuade users to invest in crypto. While you might think that no one would ever fall for it, there have been instances in which gullible individuals have been persuaded to invest thousands in crypto before losing it to a scam.

In February 2022, a young woman, Nicole Hutchinson, was scammed of nearly $300,000 in inheritance money using Hinge after being convinced to invest in bitcoin. Hutchinson claims that through Hing he made a friend, known as “Hao”, telling him he was experienced in crypto investing and that he would teach him how to invest wisely. While she started making small investments, Nicole eventually invested $290,000 following Hao’s advice and convincing her father to invest as well.

In no time she realized that none of the investments were legitimate, and that Hao had swindled her and her father out of a large sum of money through investment fraud.

But this is not even the biggest crypto dating scam that has happened recently. In January 2022, an American software engineer named Steve Belcher claimed he lost $1.6 million after falling for the “honey trap” scam on Hinge (otherwise known as the “pig butcher” scheme because victims is “plumped” before being scammed).

After meeting and developing an online relationship with a user named “Shizuka Suzuki”, Steve, like Nicole Hutchinson, was convinced to invest in crypto through a specialized platform.

Steve had already invested in crypto in the past, but began withdrawing money from his retirement account to invest in a particular scheme suggested by Shizuka. This user also claimed to be well-versed in crypto, and essentially ruined Steve’s life after scamming him of over $1.6 million.

These scammers often use bogus trading apps as vehicles through which these “CryptoRom” scams can occur. Of course, these cyber criminals make a conscious effort to conceal their identity, and often use fake names, profile photos, and create completely fictitious personas with which they can manipulate their victims.

These scams begin by building lasting online relationships, which allows scammers to gain their victims’ trust. And while you may believe that you would never fall for anything like this, thousands of people of all age groups have already been duped. So, what can you do to stay safe? Luckily, there are red flags you can watch for.

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