CNA938 spoke to cybersecurity experts Sean Gallagher, principal threat researcher at Sophos, and Vitaly Kamluk, head of the APAC research and analysis team at Kaspersky, to find out more about the tactics scammers use and who the victims typically are.
WHY DO SCAMMERS USE ROMANCE AS PART OF THEIR MODUS OPERANDUS?
Mr Gallagher, who spoke about the use of romance in a particular type of investment scam, said when people are entering into a dating app or are searching for a romantic relationship, they are more vulnerable to manipulation.
“Usually, the lure is trying to draw someone into a flirtatious or romantic relationship because that affects their ability to think critically about the whole situation,” he said.
One type of scam that uses such romance or friendship as a basis is the “pig butchering” scam.
The scam, which originated in China, refers to unsuspecting victims as “pigs” who are “butchered” by people who convince them to fork out large sums of money, typically to invest in cryptocurrency platforms.
It began on WeChat and other Chinese social media and dating applications, and spread outside of the country, said Mr Gallagher.
He added that scammers spread their net wide, beyond dating apps, citing the example of someone who used online marketplace for short-term rentals Airbnb to conduct their scamming.
WHO ARE THE VICTIMS OF A CRYPTO ROMANCE SCAM?
While there is a broad spectrum of victims in crypto romance scams, typically, it is someone between the ages of 30 and 50 and often male, said Mr Gallagher.
However, sometimes women are targeted, he added.
“Generally speaking, they are someone who’s either just entering the dating pool … or someone who’s had a health condition and is just getting back out into social contact or has been isolated because of other factors,” said Mr Gallagher.
“What happens is they are contacted by people who are running these scams, and they feel open to having that relationship, open to having that communication.”
Many of them are very highly educated, he said, with some of them holding PhDs.
“They’ve been very successful in their regular lives. And they just don’t think straight about these situations,” he said.
ONLINE DELIVERY SCAMS
During the COVID-19 pandemic and with limited ability to physically purchase items at times, services based on delivery “exploded”, noted Mr Kamluk. Scammers have targeted this area to cheat people of their money.
“How they abuse this is they send a message either through WhatsApp, maybe WeChat, Viber, Telegram or any other means to communicate with their victims, and then try to deliver the message saying that ‘you have a problem with your delivery service account’,” he said.
They then say that the users need to log in to their accounts and send a fake link that looks believable, which they click on and enter their real credentials.