Online dating site scams have previously been known for squeezing large sums of cash from victims over a long period, but a new scam seeks $99 to remove published sex chat logs keyed by the virtual "cheaters".
The US Internet Crime’s Complain Center (IC3) on Wednesday warned it had received a number of complaints about the scam, which begins at a dating site, and migrates to a “specific” social network that reveals the victim’s real identity and where the victim is quickly engaged in a sex chat.
The move to the social network is a critical step for the fraudsters, who use the victim's real identity to later extort funds from victims.
Following the online chat, victims were sent a text message asking them to confirm their name and whether they were the person involved in the chat.
“The victims were provided a link to a page on the website that claimed they were a ‘cheater’. Photos of the victims and their telephone numbers were also posted,” the IC3 warning noted.
The scam brings a new twist to online dating scams, which have traditionally strung victims along over long periods, often netting the fraudsters large sums. Last year this type of scam was responsible for $50 million in losses in the US, with average losses per victim of $8,900, according to IC3 (PDF).
Per victim, Australian losses are much higher than the US, with 1097 Australians reporting a total loss of $21 million to online dating scams, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s 2011 scam report (PDF).
The scale of fraud prompted the ACCC this February to issue new consumer protection guidelines for dating site operators.
Fraudsters behind the newer scam, which could potentially happen over a few hours, only ask victims for $9 to view and buy the posted conversations or $99 to remove their names and the conversations from the web page. However, the IC3’s complaints indicate this was not delivered.