ONLINE DATING AND ASSOCIATED CYBER CRIMES


Nothing can compare the feeling of falling in love, but before you let yourself fall (Not literally), check out this statistics related to scams.
[1] 10 % of online dating profiles are fake, 90 % are dead.
[2] Approx. 1 billion amount Indians lost to scammers since 2015.
[3] 57% of daters lie to each other about their demographic details

Cyberspace has become a new avenue for exploring romantic endeavors. The rapid development of Internet and communication technology offers an alternate medium to find, socialize and date people of different personalities. Several factors make online dating attractive to prospective customers. There is no need to visit various places to socialize and meet people. The anonymity feature in online dating allows people to participate in dating without the fear of stigma or shyness.

But the very feature of anonymity and convenience catalyze romance scam in the cyber space. After all, not everyone is looking for love on the internet, some are looking for money too. A romance scam is a confidence trick involving feigning romantic intentions towards a victim, gaining their affection, and then using that goodwill to commit fraud. There are various ploys used by scammers to steal your money along with your heart.

TYPES OF CYBER CRIMES ASSOCIATED WITH ONLINE DATING

The rapid development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the prevalence of the internet offer an alternative venue for romantic endeavors. Internet daters experience excitement when they interact with other people through new, digital mediums. Four factors make online dating attractive to customers. First, individuals do not have to leave their homes or workplaces to date. Matchmaking sites are open for business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, allowing daters to remotely scan profiles at their convenience. Second, the anonymity feature of the internet allows individuals to participate privately in dating without the oversight of others or the fear of stigma. Third, interactive online dating allows customers to experience new forms of interaction, such as live chats, instant messaging, flirtatious emoticons, nudges, and winks. Fourth, online dating sites serve up ‘perfect matches’ quickly. By using advanced search engines, ‘scientific’ matching services, and proprietary algorithms, dating sites instantly find compatible matches based on values, personality styles, attitudes, interests, race, religion, gender. This work is licensed under a creative commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 India License 495 digital environments of anonymity and flexibility allow daters to test pluralistic ways of being that are instantaneous, alterable, and open to interpretation, making online dating attractive and stimulating to customers. Not surprisingly, these qualities have resulted in the proliferation of the online dating sector since the mid-1990s, so much so that there are approximately 1,400 dating sites today, such as tinder,shaadi.com, Match.com, eHarmony.com, etc.

The online dating industry generated revenues of $957 million in 2008, making it the fourth highest grossing internet industry after online gambling, digital music, and video games. This successful industry, however, is plagued by cyber crimes, such as romance scams and identity fraud. The Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) 2007 Internet Crime Report found that online dating fraud was one of the most commonly reported complaints in the ever rising internet fraud claims. Reliable victimization statistics, however, do not exist for several reasons. Furthermore, law enforcement bodies only receive a fraction of all scam complaints, either because victims are embarrassed after being duped, or because they do not realize that they have been swindled. While the estimates of victimization are rough at best, online daters are prime targets of romance scams and identity fraud, and thereby warrant special attention.

Some tricks used for deception are:
1. In the name of Proposal: Scammers target widows or single people looking for a second chance at love. They propose the victim profusely about their love towards them and trick them to transfer money to them mainly via western union transfers or any other transfer mechanisms with security loopholes. In a similar case, a divorced woman was tricked by a scammer posing as a doctor to transfer money to him by western union. Later, the scammer was arrested in Noida after a thorough investigation.

2. Pretty lady turns out to be a man: Man pose as women via using stolen photos of pretty girls from the internet and blackmail young daters to extort money due to stigma attached with online dating.

3. Making money of LGBT community: Due to stigma involved with dating practices among LGBT community, many LGBT person take help of online dating platforms for their romantic endeavors. Scammers feed on this need of LGBT community and, often blackmail them to leak their identities among masses. Although the scams have reduced after the repeal of Sec 377, the cases of extortion and blackmail are still prevalent due to fear of public shaming.

4. Rampant presence of escort services on dating apps: Rampant number of escort agencies use stolen photographs of pretty girls to lure young singles and extort money and blackmail them in the name of public shaming and stigma attached to avail escort services.

5. Venue promotion scams: Many fake profiles are active only to lure customers to a specific place for an expensive date, After the date is over, your match is nowhere to be seen.

ONLINE DATING AND ASSOCIATED CYBER CRIMES

The FBI offers these steps to stay safe while online dating:

  • Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere, legitimately or as a different identity.
  • Go slow and ask questions.
  • Beware of an individual who seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or Facebook to go “offline.”
  • Beware of those who try to isolate you from friends and family or request inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
  • Be wary of an individual who promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
  • Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally.

How to spot the scammer and protect yourself?

  • If you are approached by someone on a dating site, experts suggest opting for a background check. You can do reverse google image search to see if source of photo is different from the identity claimed by person.
  •  Don’t open links sent by someone whom you have not met or trust, the link can redirect to porn sites, webcam or malware installer in your system.
  •  Do not and, I say do not transfer money on request of any person over dating site irrespective of how genuine their story seems, in all likely it is a fake one.
  •  Stay away from webcam chat as much as possible and keep a check on your acts.
  •  Do not share nudes at any cost.
  •  If your online sweet heart, could not come to meet you up in person, it’s better you run away from him or her.

Provisions in Cyber Law

Section 66-D of the , 2000 provides for punishment for by personation by using a computer resource. This legal provision reads as under:

“Whoever, by means for any communication device or computer resource cheats by personating, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.” This provision envisages that if a person assumes the character or appearance which is not what he really is or passes oneself off as someone he really is not, especially with fraudulent intent, then the victim can file a complaint before the Adjudicating Officer under this provision. The victim can be awarded a fine of upto 1 lakh Rupees.

The Rules under the Information Technology Act provides that the Adjudicating Officer is required to hear and decide an application in 4 months, and the whole matter has to be decided in 6 months.

The online dating and matrimonial portals can also be held liable under the Information Technology Act as there are certain liabilities associated with “Intermediaries” under the Information Technology Act.

The Online Service Providers being “Intermediaries” can be held liable under Section 79 (3) (a) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 if:

“The intermediary has conspired or abetted or aided or induced, whether by threats or promise or otherwise in the commission of the unlawful act.”

The matrimonial websites do promise suitable matches and keep emailing the same to the registered users, and also at times charge for specialized services of match making whereby they are presumed to have verified the credentials of the parties, thereby making them liable under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Also, along with action under the Information Technology Act, it is advisable to simultaneously file an FIR under Section 415, 416, 417, 419 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code. All these sections deal with cheating and cheating by personation.

If you are a victim of such a , then there is legal recourse available under the Information Technology Act against the fraudster and the Intermediary. You can directly file a complaint before the Adjudicating Officer, Ministry of Information Technology, Information Technology Act, 2000.

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