Broken Hearts and Empty Wallets: Romance Scams Plague Dating Apps

February 13, 2024 | by Jeff Harrell

Cequence bot management Valentine Blog Header

Every year around Valentine’s day, romance scams seem to rear their ugly heads. As more and more of our lives are online, it’s easier to meet people and get to know them without ever meeting in person. However, internet friendships and romances are also ripe for scammers and grifters looking to separate you from your money without regard to your feelings. And with the advent of AI, the thieves’ job just got a whole lot easier.

You may think that romance scams don’t affect a lot of people, or doesn’t net the scammers a lot of money, but when the heart gets involved, things can get out of control. In 2022, the FTC reported losses due to romance scams were upwards of $1.3 billion, with a median loss of $4,4001. Of course, that’s not to mention the pain and anguish caused by the deceit itself.

Some of these scams are 1 on 1 and manual for the attacker, but increasingly they’re automating their attacks to cast a wide net and catch as many unsuspecting victims, and their wallets, as possible. They’re leveraging publicly available web and mobile app APIs and using automated tools like bots, and with the advent of AI, they can reach even more potential victims with less effort. Through these tools and tactics, they can create fake accounts en masse as well as steal existing accounts through account takeover (ATO) attacks.

Cequence analyzed traffic and attack data across multiple customers in the dating and media vertical throughout 2023 that shows just how pervasive these attacks can be.

“Love Bots on the Prowl” including the statistics “58% of all detected bot activity originated from the US.”, “28% of transactions were spoofing an iPhone app.”, “9% of all bot traffic came from common hosting providers.”, and “In 2023, Cequence detected more than 660 million bot requests” and “Cequence protected more than 12 million unique accounts from ATOs on just a single platform.”

Are you looking for love, but also want to protect yourself? You can’t always be perfectly vigilant – everyone is a potential target for scammers – but there are some guidelines you can follow to reduce the likelihood of falling prey yourself.

Look for red flags:

Red Flag You never meet in person, but things are moving fast. Shield Slow down and try to authenticate their claims by searching for past activity online.
Red Flag They claim to work overseas or make repeated excuses for being unavailable to meet. Shield Search or ask others online if they are being told similar fabrications.
Red Flag You’re asked to send a gift or provide money to help them with a sudden ‘emergency.’ Shield Stop. NEVER send money, gifts, or buy tickets on behalf of someone you’ve never met. It’s now time to consider filing a fraud report.

Dating app and website companies can also do their part to protect their users from scams. Cequence’s customers and their users are already protected – API Spartan, part of the Cequence Unified API Protection platform, detects API attacks and blocks them natively in real time. API Spartan protects organizations from the full range of bot attacks, including those often found in romance scams.

Here are the top five things to look for in a bot management solution to protect businesses against scams like fake account creation, account takeovers and more:

  1. No Application Modification – Easy to deploy without agents, JavaScript, or SDKs.
  2. Broad Use Case Coverage – Protects mobile apps, web applications, and cloud- and microservices-based infrastructure.
  3. Rapid Time to Value – Effective immediately without requiring extensive configuration.
  4. Retooling Resiliency – Sustains protection even as attackers change their methods.
  5. Plays Well with Others – Works and integrates with your existing infrastructure.

Check out (and share!) our Valentine’s Day infographic.

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Jeff Harrell


Jeff Harrell

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