After the release of the Tinder Swindler documentary in February of 2022, many of us learned more about swindlers and their elaborate ways of luring in unsuspecting victims. The movie confirmed that every single one of us could become the next target of an online con artist. These people are experts in psychological manipulation and know how to convince people to believe their lies.
With that said, users can do a lot to protect themselves from these dangerous individuals. But first, they need to gain an insight into how swindlers operate and their common tricks for scamming people.
Methods used by swindlers
Online scammers have similar methods and tactics they often reuse on multiple users. Here are the most common ones:
We’ll start with the one made famous by the Tinder Swindler, and that is a romance scam. This one is the easiest to execute because many people are looking for true love and are willing to believe in anything.
Unfortunately, this makes them an ideal candidate for this type of scam. As seen in the previously mentioned documentary, a romance scam involves a fake online profile on dating websites and social media. The latter is made to give credibility to the scammer.
A target will develop a deep romantic relationship with a scammer over weeks or months. These individuals know how to play a long game and are ready to invest a lot of time in the scam. Once they are certain you have developed serious feelings, the scammers will ask for money, often indirectly. Some might even use travel websites to get their hands on your funds.
While people should stop talking to scammers as soon as finances are mentioned, the truth is that some of these fake relationships last longer than they should.
Fake investment scams
Investment scams are often seen on social media, but they sometimes overlap with romance scams, too. The rise of social media enabled these individuals to create multiple profiles promoting their fake investments through posts, ads, or even made-up success stories. Fraudsters will contact you and present an amazing investment opportunity that often involves cryptocurrency nowadays.
Of course, a sense of urgency is very much present in this situation. The targets will be pressured to make a decision as soon as possible, which gives them less time to research the offered investment properly. Remember that if an investment sounds too good to be true, it is probably a scam.
Malware and phishing
Swindlers don’t shy away from using malware and fake websites to steal personal and financial information from their targets. Again, they might try to strike up a friendship or even begin a romantic relationship with someone, only to send them malware in the form of an email attachment.
Most of us don’t hesitate when we see an attachment from someone we know, and we’ll likely open it. Once malware infects a machine, a swindler will have full access to our files. Their targets could become victims of identity theft, especially if they have details such as social security numbers and credit cards stored on their computer or phone.
How to protect yourself from scammers
Protecting yourself and your information is not as difficult as it might seem. Just a tiny bit of effort can do wonders for your cybersecurity. Here’s where to start:
Elevate your cybersecurity measures
The first thing you need to do, regardless of dealing with a potential scammer, is improve your overall cybersecurity. For example, don’t reuse passwords for your online accounts. Come up with unique login information that is hard to guess.
Your passwords should contain symbols, numbers, and uppercase and lowercase letters. Password managers are highly recommended, especially for more complicated login information.
Most online platforms have an option to use two-factor authentication, so make sure to set it up. This verification method ensures that you are the only person with access to an account by sending you a code to your phone or email.
Use a VPN
Many VPN features can help protect your personal and financial information online, so consider adding this digital service to your daily routine. A VPN will protect your data by creating a safe tunnel between your device and a server.
Encryption is just one of the VPN benefits. This technology also hides your real location, so if you are concerned about your offline privacy when dealing with a scammer, make sure you use it every time you are online.
Avoiding scammers online starts with knowledge. You are already doing great because you clearly want to learn more about scams and warning signs that might signal something could be wrong.
It is crucial to be educated about this topic and capable of spotting the basic red flags in online communication and cybersecurity. There is no need to answer every message on your social media profile, especially if you don’t know the sender. The same goes for emails. Be wary of attachments from unknown sources since they are widely used to spread malware. Just a little bit of caution can go a long way.