Checkpoint
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Checkpoint

The Tinder Swindler

Broken hearts, broken bank accounts

Dating Apps and Online Safety (Ink Drop / Shutterstop.com)

Picture this, after swiping through thousands of profiles on a dating app, you finally come across this one perfect profile. He seems decent, well traveled and appears to live a good life. In that instance, you think, why not? And within a few seconds, it’s a “match”. You really start thinking, wow the love gods must be in my favor….

You meet this guy once and he checks all your boxes. Soon days turn into weeks and you’re in this committed relationship, what could go wrong right?

But here’s a side thought, the pandemic has forced several of us to live in isolation, so when this “match” starts giving you all this attention you’ve been craving, you give into it blindly to avoid being lonely.

This is what happened to all of the women featured in the now trending Netflix series “The Tinder Swindler”. However, not only did these women end up with broken hearts but were also left with empty bank accounts and exorbitant amounts of debt. The price of finding “the one” surely seems steep.

Definition of “Swindler” (Oxford dictionary)

For those of you who haven’t seen the series yet, here’s a quick recon. At the risk of not giving away the entirety of the show — a good looking guy, with a lavish lifestyle suddenly takes an interest in you. He whisks you away in private jets for dates initially and then starts pushing out fantasies of starting a life together. All sounds good so far, right? But then, life happens, and he’s having financial problems. As his potential life partner, you start to help him, but then these handouts start amounting to more than you can afford. He promises to give you back the money, but it never comes. And so you get the gist.

Such incidents have most commonly been termed Romance Scams, where the person builds this illusion of being in a committed relationship and then starts extorting his or her partner for cash. As of 2021, the losses associated with romance scams in the U.S. have amounted to nearly $547 million, an 80% increase from 2020. And the numbers are still on the rise.

Increasing cases of romance scams (FTC)

While across the Atlantic, the U.K.’s Action Fraud reported a loss of nearly £74 million from romance scams. But what’s interesting to note here is while an exorbitant amount is being lost to these types of scams, regulators have only recently added online fraud into the scope of the Online Safety Bill. One might ask, why wasn’t this a priority before? As not only money is lost here, but the victims suffer severe mental anguish from a range of negative emotions when the deception is revealed. And don’t forget the financial recovery process. In some extreme cases, the victims have resorted to suicide. At times, victims of romance scams also refuse to seek support or disclose the crime, merely by anticipating the shame or embarrassment that they might have to face after.

The pandemic has definitely forced us to shift gears and switch to a more digital lifestyle, even to the extent that we’re trying to find our “one true love” online. Gone are the days when you’d meet someone in real life and ask them out; now it’s all about those virtual dates, at times even across continents.

And so comes the question, what part do dating apps like Tinder and Bumble play in all this? As, that’s where the first interaction between the fraudster and the victims take place. What sort of policies do they have in place? While there are several incidents of romance scams being reported, do they affect these apps at all?

Here’s a brief overview of the community policies of Tinder and Bumble surrounding romance scams:

Community Guidelines of Tinder and Bumble surrounding romance scams.

There are currently only two policies mildly addressing romance scams. The Impersonation clause addresses the issue of identity theft but what about what happens after. Tinder does mention that a user’s offline behavior could lead to an account termination but Bumble doesn’t even seem to consider anything after the match.

However, while Tinder has all these policies in place, in the case of the Tinder Swindler, he was a known convict, with priors of defrauding three Finish women before Why was his profile still active?

So far we’ve only discussed this from a woman’s perspective, and you might be wondering if men also get tricked into romance scams? The answer is yes. But research has shown that women are more often the victims of romance scams than men, especially mid-aged, well-educated women.

Now that such crimes are being highlighted through TV shows, what next?

It doesn’t mean you give up on love, just be more alert. As Norton™ say, “Roses are red, violets are blue, and romance scammers can fool you too”. Don’t give into shame, anyone can fall prey to such scams, either online or offline, so when you get even the slightest hint of being played, REPORT IT!

Most of these online fraudsters still remain at large due to insufficient evidence reports. By doing your part, you can not only get justice for yourself but also ensure others don’t fall into this vicious trap.

Here are some additional tips, just in case ;)

❤️ Don’t share your bank details, no matter how in love you are, especially if you haven’t met the person in real life

❤️ Do not take out loans on someone else’s behalf

❤️ Look up prospective partners on Google, in case there have been incident reports (never hurts to check twice, right?)

❤️ Also look up their socials, see their most recent interactions, make sure they’re real. Performing a reverse image search also doesn’t hurt.

❤️ If you start sensing something is fishy, especially if he/she starts calling you only at certain times of the day or starts to avoid meeting face-to-face or taking video calls, trust your gut and call them out. If they get too defensive, there’s definitely something wrong there.

❤️ And since, we’re all about cryptocurrencies these days 🧑‍💻

Don’t respond to requests to send cryptocurrency, give the numbers on a gift card, or wiring money. Anyone asking for money in those ways is a scammer.

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