Love scammers exploit the war in Ukraine in a cynical campaign

Researchers from Bitdefender Labs have published research on a widespread online dating scam that exploits its victims with the promise of romantic relationships and even relationships with women in war-torn Ukraine.

The campaign has intensified since June 10 and appears to be primarily targeting inboxes in the US, Ireland, Sweden, Germany and Denmark, and smaller numbers in the UK. The spam comes from IP addresses located in Turkey.

Subject lines vary but have been known to include Enjoy dating with hot Ukrainian singles; Ukrainian beauties for love and more; New private message from your Ukrainian girl, etc Most communications analyzed by the Bitdefender team are directed to two online dating platforms.

Targets stupid enough to click on links in spam emails will be redirected to insecure dating platforms that solicit personally identifiable information (PII), including dates of birth, gender, and dating preferences.

They are then redirected to another online dating platform where they can start interacting with women. However, it’s not free, with packages costing hundreds of dollars for the ability to email, chat, and unlock profile pictures.

The scam is a fairly typical example of the type that most savvy internet users should be able to see coming a mile away, but it’s one of the first romance scams seen to directly exploit Ukraine – although d other war-related phishing campaigns have been observed.

“Every year, love scammers steal hundreds of millions of dollars from reckless internet users trying to find love online,” wrote Bitdefender’s Alina Bízgǎ. “With losses exceeding half a billion in 2021, online dating scams are increasingly popular among fraudsters targeting lonely hearts around the world.”

“Behind all the smoke and mirrors, users are risking a lot of money looking for their soul mate. Also, the likelihood of actually communicating with a Ukrainian woman is slim. Dating platforms like these are notorious for using robots to facilitate communication with as many users as possible.The profiles seem too good to be true and many customer reviews reveal that despite going broke to arrange a real meeting with the active women on the site, none is presented.

The Bitdefender team has been tracking adult content and dating spam campaigns for some time, and has observed a relatively consistent number of online dating-related spam campaigns over the past 18 months. This is likely linked to increased loneliness and isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic, Bízgǎ said.

” Even though he [the campaign] does not correspond to the situation in Ukraine, it takes advantage of human emotional drivers and the lack of personal connection experienced by millions of people during the pandemic,” she wrote.

Bízgǎ added that although there is less immediate danger in interacting with this particular spam campaign – it is not, for example, a ransomware vector – it is not recommended for anyone to access the sites. web or to confirm personal information.

Most importantly, it’s essential not to make credit card or PayPal payments on the Sites – they’re unlikely to have adequate cybersecurity measures in place, and it risks compromising your financial information and open you up to other forms of cybercrime. all along the line.

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