With the emergence of social media came the catfishers—scammers who create a fake persona, complete with attractive photos, to form relationships with strangers predicated on lies.
With the emergence of cryptocurrency came the crypto scammers, who get their victims to part with their Bitcoin or other crypto.
And to the chagrin of online daters around the world, the two techniques seem to increasingly be a match made in scam heaven.
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The rise of crypto catfishers
More and more, scammers on the hunt for crypto seem to be turning to catfishing to lure in their victims. The Better Business Bureau had even issued a warning earlier this year about crypto scammers on dating apps.
If you’re on dating apps, this might be all too familiar to you. Users tell us that scammers often start off with small talk and move the conversation towards jobs and wealth creation.
One source told us that a man she matched with on a dating app even introduced her to a suspicious-looking cryptocurrency investing website and told her to test the website by putting in a small sum of money. Further research proved her suspicions right about the website being a scam. Eventually, the man’s profile disappeared as well.
How to spot a catfish scammer
Start by reading the FBI’s tips on romance scams.
Not every catfisher makes it apparent that they’re, well, a catfisher. While some are pretty obvious—their bio could contain information about an “emerging” cryptocurrency they know about, or they could be a “cryptocurrency trader”—not every profile is unmistakable.
However, if the comments in this Reddit post are anything to go by, there are certain commonalities in the profiles of these scammers. For starters, where they’re located might give them away.
Dating app users we spoke to shared that the majority of scammers were located miles away—which is unusual, as most apps match users based on proximity—and had relatively empty profiles. Some also reported that scammers might attempt to enthusiastically start a conversation about topics in relation to what they do for work and investing.
The other thing that gives catfishers away is their unverified profiles. Apps like Tinder and Bumble have introduced a photo verification feature that allows users to verify their profile with a separate photograph. Only verified users will receive a blue tick next to their names. This is how you could potentially identify a legitimate profile.
What to do if you think you’re being catfished
If you suspect you’re getting catfished for your crypto, report the person to the dating app and indicate precisely why you think they’re a possible catfish. You can also report cryptocurrency scams to the FTC if you’re in the U.S. If you have fallen victim to a scam, contact the police.
Always be wary of phishing, which partly relies on your trust in a relationship to deceive you. If you’ve received a link from someone, try not to open it right away. Instead, use a site like ScanURL, PhishTank, or Google Transparency Report to verify the safety of the link before opening it.
If, for some reason, you’re genuinely interested in investing and want to check out a platform recommended to you, do your research. There are plenty of Reddit forums, Twitter accounts, and trusted sites you can use to help you make an informed decision.
Other crypto scamming methods
According to a Kaspersky report, there’s also been a rise in phishing emails purporting to be from legitimate cryptocurrency companies. Scammers also often announce fake initial coin offerings in their emails or messages to lure people into investing.
ExpressVPN’s Digital Security Lab also helped analyze apps bearing the names and logos of well-known cryptocurrency wallets. These apps turned out to be set up by scammers trying to get a hold of users’ private keys.
Scammers are also using social media to impersonate legitimate cryptocurrency influencers to promote specific platforms. One of the biggest tells of a crypto scammer is that they’ll attempt to get you to transfer a small amount of your crypto to test the platform.