If you're looking to find love online this Valentine's Day, or at any time in 2018, be wary of scammers looking to take advantage of you – and there are plenty of them. Romance scammers often lower your defences by appealing to your emotional side in order to use you.
"Given that the popularity of social media is set to remain for the coming years, consumers are encouraged to constantly educate themselves and their loved ones about the latest methods that fraudsters use to get hold of their victims' personal information," said Kovelin Naidoo, chief cyber security officer at FNB.
1. The online conversation escalates quickly from introduction to love. They scammer then asks you to chat privately, outside of the online platform where you met.
2. After gaining your trust, they have a sob story to share with you, prompting you to "help". Help may come in the form of gifts or money, and the help request never a once-off.
3. Their internet profile seems too perfect, or is riddled with inconsistencies. For example, he says he's a teacher in a Johannesburg school, yet does not know who the MEC for education in Gauteng is.
4. They keep giving excuses why they can't meet with you in person, or their camera doesn't work when you want to Skype.
How to protect yourself
1. Confirm they are who they say they are. Ask more probing questions. Do an image search of your admirer, to help determine if they really are who they say they are. You can use image-search services such as Google.
Please retweet. I am trying desperately to find the man in this picture. He needs to know his pictures are being used in scams. Thank you. #datingscam #pof #romancescam #helpmefindhim #victim #SaturdayMorning #Saturday #fullmoon pic.twitter.com/PDwsAuE1QF— Im Allofyou (@ImAllofYou) December 3, 2017
2. Be wary of money requests. Don't give money to someone you do not know or have never met. Also be careful of agreeing to transfer money for someone else – this could be money laundering.
3. If you arrange to meet, tell a close friend or family member where you're going and who you're meeting. You never fully know the intentions of a stranger – they could be criminal.
4. Be careful of the personal information you send to a stranger you like online. Personal pictures like nudes can be used by scammers to blackmail you.
5. As soon as you suspect something is wrong, alert the police. Reporting online scammers might help prevent them scamming someone else.