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Online dating scams peak ahead of Valentine's Day. Here are warning signs you may be falling for a chatbot.

Warning signs of dating app scams
Dating app scams revealed: Did you think you were falling in love but fell for a robot instead? 01:31

Activity on dating apps and websites increases leading up to Valentine's Day, and so does your risk of being scammed, according to new research.

Increasingly, scammers are using high-tech tools like bots and artificial intelligence to trick victims into sending them money. Cyber security company Arkose Labs reported between January 2023 and January 2024, dating apps saw a 2087% increase in bot attacks.

A bot is software that operates on the internet and is designed to perform automated tasks faster than humans ever could.

Scammers deploy bots to register new accounts and phony dating profiles at a massive scale. If they succeed, they use the fake profiles to lure unsuspecting singles into developing online relationships and ultimately ask the victims to send money.

In 2022, nearly 70,000 people said they fell victim to romance scams and reported $1.3 billion in losses, according to data released by the Federal Trade Commission.

Research from Barclays shows the age group most likely to fall for romance scams are people between the ages of 51 and 60.

Tech enables scammers

The latest technology enables scammers to become more convincing to their victims, according to Kevin Gosschalk, Arkose Labs' Founder and CEO.

"They're using artificial intelligence to craft their in-app or on-platform messages," said Gosschalk.

Arkose is one of a growing number of U.S. companies helping businesses fight off cyber-attacks with a focus on bots.

"It's a huge arms race," Gosschalk said. "The attackers are motivated by huge amounts of money, and it's just so lucrative."

What to look for — and tips to avoid scams

Here are some warning signs you may be communicating with a scammer on a dating app:

  • Overly formal or non-conversational messages — That's a sign that a scammer is using AI to craft a message. Check for this by copying and pasting the message into an online generative AI detection tool.
  • Inconsistent information — Sometimes fake accounts are created by a cybercrime ring, with two or three scammers behind one dating profile. Look for abrupt changes in personality and tone.
  • Odd patterns — If the person you're communicating with tells you he or she lives in your state but messages you in the middle of the night, this could indicate the scammer is based abroad.
  • Unrealistic photos — If that match looks like a model, a scammer may have found a photo from the internet to use as a profile picture. You can check this by putting the photo into an online image search tool.
  • Money requests — A classic red flag that you're being scammed.
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