Valentine's Day upon us, it's important to highlight some of the dangers of looking for romance on the Internet...
It's a fact that numerous scammers, marriage fraudsters and other mysterious characters are out to manipulate the natural desire to find a partner. Various virtual 'honey traps' are not uncommon on the World Wide Web - and once tempted by a momentary passion, a user can easily find themselves left with money stolen or a nasty infection on their machine.
The popularity of online dating sites such as match.com, eharmony and plentyoffish could hardly escape the attention of fraudsters. Spam emails imitating notifications from popular dating sites are widespread in almost all major languages. By clicking the links in these emails, the user runs the risk of infecting his computer with some sort of malicious program that is usually downloaded instead of the promised photos of a beautiful stranger.
Fake dating sites not only pose risks associated with phishing or malware - they can also jeopardise the wealth of the unwary user. One simple scam to loosen the users' purse-strings is to demand registration or confirmation of age via a text message, which can cost from 20 pence to eight pounds. However, once the money has been spent no access is provided - because there is no content to access.
The most creative type of junk mail which has not lost its popularity throughout the years is so-called Nigerian spam. The 'romantic authors' of these letters target potential victims registered on dating sites. The 'girl' who allegedly writes these sorts of emails usually lives in a distant, war-torn African country. Very soon the potential groom finds out his would-be fiancée is an heiress to a million-dollar inheritance and is willing to share her wealth with her partner. However, to get his bride and her money out of the country, her future husband is asked to pay for some legal services.
These tactics need long-term correspondence because very few people would agree to pay these considerable sums. The first emails from the potential victim are answered by a robot but once the fraudsters understand they have got a chance, they immediately enter into the correspondence. Processing a potential victim can last a long time and requires an individual approach and an understanding of psychology.
Unlike these 'Nigerian' brides, 'Russian' brides only need money to buy an air ticket and finally meet the man of their dreams - and of course this money becomes easy prey for the fraudsters.
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