Safeguard your heart and personal info this cuffing season

Emma McGowan 12 Jan 2024

While you have your heart set on finding a partner, you should also keep your eyes peeled for the dangers that come with dating in the digital realm.

You may be searching for your soulmate, a low-risk situationship (we don’t judge), or just a suitable date to the wedding you’re invited to next month. Whatever the reason, many of us are on the lookout for love this time of year.  

These days, it’s more common than not to look for companionship online rather than testing your luck at the local grocery store checkout line or the karaoke bar down the street. Yet, just like the song says, love hurts. When you sit behind a screen in search of a partner, there’s a chance that you may encounter romance scams. That’s when a fraudster attempts to trick someone into a fake romantic relationship, typically by using a fake online identity to gain their victim's trust in hopes of stealing their money or personal information.  

While most individuals you come across on dating apps and in person are genuine and seeking some kind of connection, some have ill intentions, waiting to catch the eye of unsuspecting victims. So, before you dive into the digital dating pool, let's first dive into some common romance scams and examples that you should keep an eye out for during cuffing season. 

 You’re a catch – they’re a catfish 

It’s a tale as old as time. Or at least as old as the first dating app.  

Let’s imagine that our hopeless romantic, let’s call her= Jordan, decides that it’s finally time to get in the dating scene and hops on the site all of her friends use. One day while swiping, she stumbles across Alex’s profile and it seems like a perfect match. Alex appears to be a charming, successful entrepreneur who shares Jordan’s interests. They begin having captivating conversations, growing closer night after night.  

 What’s the catch? When Jordan suggests a video call to deepen their connection, Alex becomes evasive, giving lousy excuse after lousy excuse. That’s because Alex is a catfish. A scammer who has created a fake online persona with the goal of gaining Jordan’s trust to extract her personal information, and eventually, her money.  

How to avoid catfishing 

Some surprises from your partner, like flowers or chocolates, are nice! Other surprises, like finding out they’re not the person you thought they were, aren’t so nice. You can keep from winding up in a similar situation as Jordan by always staying cautious.  

Whenever you’re talking to somebody online whom you’ve never met in person, you should keep your guard up, just in case. You can also ask for a video call, and if they continuously refuse like Alex, it could be because they're afraid they'll get caught. Do your research, and watch out for obvious red flags like asking for money, acting over the top, or having a suspiciously low presence on social media.        

Scammers sliding into your DMs 

Jordan learned her lesson with Alex. She is DONE with dating apps and has turned her attention to her social media direct messages, a much more reliable form of finding love (can you hear the sarcasm in this text?). While scrolling through her DMs, Jordan notices a new message from someone named Riley.  

We know what you’re thinking, but this message doesn’t seem like an obvious con. Riley typed a carefully curated message to Jordan, expressing a deep admiration for her photography skills that are on display across her page. Flattered, Jordan engages in the conversation. Over the course of a few days, Jordan learns that Riley shares her passion for lighting and composition. So, Riley sends a link to their portfolio, asking for a keen eye and constructive criticism. Only, the link isn’t to a photo gallery, it’s just plain old malware.  

This is a common Instagram scam, and it can happen to anyone. 

How to avoid Instagram phishing 

When you receive a new message from an account on any social media platform, your first thought should be one of skepticism.  

Scammers will typically do a few things when they message you. They may have a sad story about why they need money. They send a link or attachment. They try to convince you to move the conversation elsewhere. Don’t fall for any of their traps, and always verify the legitimacy of the account before engaging. 

The not-so-sweet sugar daddy 

That’s it. Jordan is sick and tired of getting hurt. Why can’t she just find someone who appreciates her companionship so much that they’re willing to pay for it? Yeah, you know where we’re going with this. Jordan has already blocked and reported Riley, they’re yesterday's news. But she just noticed a brand new message in her inbox from Taylor.  

This message is unlike anything she's seen before. Taylor claims to be in need of companionship and wants to pay Jordan over $1,000 per week just to chat! After a few back-and-forth messages, Jordan finally decides to send Taylor the link to her digital wallet. Now, just when it seems like the cash will start flowing in, Taylor responds once again with a final request. They just need Jordan to send over one teeny tiny payment to prove her loyalty. Small price to pay for such a hefty allowance, right?  

Nope. This is just another sugar daddy scam, when a cybercriminal tries to steal your money or personal information by posing as an older wealthy person interested in paying you in exchange for some simple attention. 

How to avoid sugar daddy scams 

Just like all the other romance scams mentioned here, the key to avoiding them is trusting your instincts. If someone is essentially promising you money for free, that’s a deal that’s too good to be true. Take the time to assess the authenticity of the relationship and your potential partner's intentions. You should ignore messages from people you don’t know altogether, but if you’re in doubt, look at the profile to see if there's anything fishy about it.

As you prepare to find a suitable match this cuffing season, it’s important to know what red flags to look for in a potential suitor and what red flags to look for within online dating profiles and messages. Also, remember that it always helps to have a wingman, and Avast One is the best to have when it comes to protecting yourself against online threats before they happen. 


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