PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) – This week’s Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday segment focuses on building a digital defense against dating scams targeting the LGBTQ + community.
Last week we talked about romance scams where the bad actor tries to get dates online to invest in bogus cryptocurrency opportunities.
This week, a warning from our Federal Trade Commission partners regarding people being targeted on dating apps that cater to the LGBTQ + community.
These aren’t your typical I-love-you type scams, please send money. These are extortion scams.
They typically work as follows: a con artist poses as a potential romantic partner, chats with the victim, quickly sends explicit photos, and requests similar photos in return. If the victim sends photos, the blackmail begins.
The extortioner threatens to share your conversation and photos with your friends, family or employer unless you pay, usually by gift card. To make their threats more believable, these scammers will tell you the exact names of the people they plan to contact if you don’t pay. This is information that crooks can easily find online using your phone number or social media profile.
Some of these bad actors threaten people who are not yet fully LGBTQ +. They may force you to pay or be exposed, claiming that they will “ruin your life” by exposing photos or explicit conversations.
Regardless of their angle, they are only looking for one thing: your money.
If you are looking for love on dating apps, here are some ways to avoid these scams:
- Check who you are talking to. Perform a reverse image search of the person’s profile photo to see if it’s associated with another name or details that don’t match. These are signs of a scam.
- Don’t share personal information with someone you just met on a dating app. This includes your cell phone number, email address, and social media profiles.
- Don’t pay crooks to destroy photos or conversations. There is no guarantee that they will, and you will definitely lose your money.
In fact, the FBI advises against paying extortion requests, which could support criminal activity. Remember that once you share photos, you cannot get them back.
Are you under 25 and looking to contact a counselor from an LGBTQ + organization about what happened? Contact the Trevor Project. They have free advisors, available 24/7, who can talk to you through their phone, chat, and text services.
As always, if you are the victim of this online extortion scam, you should also report the incident to the FBI Internet Crime Complaints Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.