The ‘Broken hearts, empty accounts’ project uses Technological solutions to detect subtle language cues used by these romance scammers in online conversations.
Profiling the scammer on Tinder
A team of researchers from the Abertay University in the UK recently reviewed a series of articles based on romance fraud, then summarized some of the most recurring findings in an article published on arXiv. In this way, they try to draw up a profile on this type of scammers and thus make it easier to identify their patterns and behaviors.
“Romance fraud has been growing for the past decade or so and was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a rise in cybercrime and cyberattacks,” said Dr. Lynsay Shepherd, one of the researchers who carried out the study. “Our article provides a comprehensive overview of romance fraud research, which could serve as a starting point for future research in the field.”
Dr. Shepherd and her colleagues, Alexander Bilz and Graham Johnson, initially examined a total of 232 articles focused on romantic fraud using a common method for performing meta-analyses. A total of 44 were found to be the most relevant and were therefore included in their final analysis.
By analyzing the findings of the 44 studies they selected, Dr. Shepherd and her colleagues tried to Pinpoint Common Profiles of Romance Scammers and the factors that can predispose people to become victims of these frauds. They showed that while romance scammers may approach victims by saying completely different things or presenting themselves differently, some patterns seemed to be quite common.
The researchers wrote: “Most of the studies in our analysis contributed to romance fraud profiling by establishing process models to describe the progression of the scam, or by analyzing linguistic patterns and persuasion techniques employed by fraudsters when interacting with each other.” with their victims. These findings may help develop better detection and mitigation techniques and lead to the development of practical training and awareness programs.”
Common Traits of Romance Scammers
For example, most scammers tend to use a persuasive language and their interactions with victims generally span three broad “stages.” First, they start a conversation with their victims, then they begin to strengthen their online relationship with them, and finally they emotionally ‘hook’ or involve them in this virtual relationship.
Most scammers just start asking for money or confidential information in the final stage of the scam, when the victims have become emotionally attached to them. To persuade victims to comply with their requests, they often use emotional and visceral language that expresses vulnerability and the urgency for some form of financial help or information. This is often common in other types of scams and scams that use social engineering.
Another observed pattern is the military theme. This is particularly common in online romance scams, with many scammers pretending to be in the military and on dangerous missions. In these cases, the scammers often solicited money for medical emergencies or phony criminal trials. Non-existent fees that, according to them, would allow them to travel and meet with the victims, etc.
Finally, they usually present a idealistic profile which varies depending on the country from which they are or pretend to be. In Italy, many scammers pose as real estate agents, while in the Philippines they pose as sellers.
Single women with a good level of education and an age between in between 35 and 54 years they seemed to be at particularly high risk of becoming targets of dating scams.
As for the date on which there is usually a peak of these scams, it is usually around valentine. “We tend to see an increase in romance fraud around Valentine’s Day, as single people are more sensitive to the fact that they are not in a relationship and therefore more susceptible to falling for a romance scam.” .
Finally, the researchers described some countermeasures that could help mitigate the impact of romance scams. These include the introduction of systems to detect fake online dating profiles, machine learning approaches that can identify linguistic patterns or sentences often associated with romance scams, as well as the creation or dissemination of resources that can help victims determine if a profile they are interacting with is fake.