With Valentine’s Day still top of mind for many, experts at Kaspersky Lab have highlighted just some of the dangers of looking for romance on the Internet.
It’s a fact that numerous scammers, marriage fraudsters and other shadowy characters are out to manipulate the natural human desire to find a partner, they warn. Various virtual “honey traps” are not uncommon on the Web – and once dazzled by a momentary passion, a user can easily find himself left without money or with a nasty infection on their machine.
The popularity of online dating could hardly escape the attention of fraudsters. Spam e-mails imitating notifications from popular dating sites are widespread in almost all major languages. By clicking the links in these e-mails, the user runs the risk of infecting their 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 costing from 30 US cents to $12.00. 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 more romantic authors of these letters target potential victims registered on dating sites.
The “girl” who allegedly writes these sorts of e-mails 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 betrothed.
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 considerable sums guided by their heart rather than their head.
The first e-mails from the potential patsy 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 here an individual approach and an understanding of psychology are especially important.
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.
“The Internet offers ample opportunities for communication. However, it is not always a safe place to search for romance. We have described only a few of the honey traps lying in wait on the Internet,” says Tatyana Kulikova, senior spam analyst at Kaspersky Lab.
“To avoid disappointment, follow these safety rules: do not visit unknown dating sites, especially those advertised in spam, do not open e-mails from unknown senders and do not reply to e-mails if they seem suspicious.”