Looking for Valentine’s love online? Beware of scammers and cat phishing

In most cases, the victim is contacted by a younger, beautiful, online-only personality.
Image: Pixabay/athree23

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, hopeful romantics be warned — cat phishing and online romance scams could leave you heartbroken and broke.

“In most cases, the victim has been contacted by a younger, beautiful, online-only personality and is convinced of the person’s sudden, passionate, requited love, even when asked for money,” says Anna Collard, MD of KnowBe4 Africa, a specialist in cybersecurity awareness training.

“Many victims of cat phishing lose substantial sums of money, sometimes their entire life savings.”

Collard said dating apps were great and a lot of people found partners or even a spouse online, but they also attracted scammers.

“Unfortunately, dating apps don’t only attract lonely hearts, but scammers too. They are there to steal your money or manipulate you into doing things you wouldn’t normally do,” said Collard.

She said scammers could also be cyber criminals whose intentions were to try to earn your trust to gain access to a company network.

“If you have certain privileges in your job, such as IT administrator, HR or finance, you could be targeted by these so-called social engineers or people hackers,” she said.

KnowBe4 Africa provided these tips on how to spot a scam that could end in heartache:

The scammer is beautiful

If every picture looks as if it came from a fashion magazine, it probably has. If they have only one profile pic, swipe left.

The victim has never met them in person

The key to most romance scams is that the victim and the date have never met in person, or if they did, they didn’t look anything like the beautiful person in the photograph. If voice changes are challenged, usually the scammer comes up with a scenario as if they have a cold.

The online person is from a foreign country

The scammer is almost always from, or travelling in, a foreign country. The distance ensures that it is not easy or cheap for the victim and scammer to meet in person.

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