As Valentine’s Day approaches, the use of dating apps by people looking to make new connections ramps up. Unfortunately, as people are looking for love, scammers are looking for ways to steal their money.

Georgia State University researchers reveal tactics used by scammers to gain user trust and make them vulnerable to cybercrime, revealing the underreported and understudied phenomenon of “romance fraud.”

Online romance fraud has become the third-ranked cybercrime in terms of losses, with online romance fraud losses reaching nearly $956 million in 2021. Researchers at Georgia State University analyzed victim testimonials to identify risk and protective factors, developing a model for vulnerability and resilience.

Researchers found common scammers use emotional triggers, crisis scenarios, and pressure victims to migrate relationships to private email or messaging formats. They also warn against transferring money and recommend checking new online relationships with trusted third parties. Risk factors include lack of technology familiarity, young people, and broken relationships.

Online romance scams are often underreported due to victim shame and self-incrimination. Online service providers could develop predictive tools to detect fraudulent attempts and launch educational programs for victims. Victims often experience traumatic psychological trauma, similar to domestic violence victims. Cyber hygiene is crucial for protecting oneself online.