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Dating site users are being tricked into laundering money, FBI says

Confidence/romance frauds are on the rise.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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  • I've been covering technology and mobile for 12 years, first as a telecommunications reporter and assistant editor at ZDNet in Australia, then as CNET's West Coast head of breaking news, and now in the Thought Leadership team.
Corinne Reichert
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Dating apps are being used to trick people into scams.

Angela Lang/CNET

The FBI has put out a warning on "confidence/romance frauds" across online dating sites. Cybercriminals are tricking people into laundering and sending money, purchasing items and providing personal and financial information, the FBI said Monday, by posing as a US citizen in a foreign country, a US military member deployed overseas or a US business owner.

More than 15,000 people told the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) they were a victim of an online dating confidence/romance fraud, totaling $211 million in losses in 2017. This rose to 18,000 people and $362 million in 2018, the FBI said.

Some cybercriminals pretend to be a US citizen living overseas, spending months building relationships via online dating sites and then asking the victim to send gifts and electronics, followed by the money for a plane ticket to visit.

"In some cases, the actor claims the wired funds did not arrive and asks the victim to resend the money," the FBI added. "When they don't arrive as scheduled, they claim they were arrested, and ask for more money to post bail."

Some situations also see victims convinced to set up a new bank account that is later used to facilitate criminal activities.

"Most dating site administrators do not conduct criminal background checks when an account is registered," the FBI warned. It recommended dating site users do a reverse image search on anyone they connect with online.