The Federal Trade Commission is starting to see enough scams targeting people on LGBTQ + dating apps that it feels it needs to raise the warning flag. The agency claims that apps like Grindr and Feeld are full of extortion scams, as opposed to your typical I-love-you type scams, please send money. All they target is one thing: your money.
How the scam works
The scam’s first line of attack is masquerading as a potentially interested romantic partner on an LGBTQ + dating app. The con artist chats with the targeted victim, quickly sends explicit photos, and requests similar photos in return.
At that point, things go wrong. “If you send photos, the blackmail begins. They threaten to share your conversation and photos with your friends, family or employer unless you pay, usually by gift card, ”writes Ari Lazarus, consumer education specialist at the FTC.
“To make their threats more believable, these crooks will tell you the exact names of the people they plan to contact if you don’t pay. This is information that scammers can find online using your phone number or social media profile.
The FTC says the crooks are also preying on people who are locked up or not yet fully identified as LGBTQ +, pressuring those people to pay or be exposed through explicit photos or conversations.
How to protect yourself
If you’re looking for love on dating apps, the FTC says there are ways to avoid scams:
Check who you are talking to. One thing you can do is a reverse image search of the person’s profile photo to see if it’s associated with another name or any details that don’t match. If something doesn’t stick, it could very well be a scam.
Don’t share any personal information with someone you just met on a dating app. Your cell phone number, email address, and social media profiles should be kept for you until you are 100% sure the person on the other end of the phone is real.
Don’t pay crooks to destroy photos or conversations. There is no guarantee that they will do anything other than take your money. In fact, the FBI advises against paying extortion requests, which could support criminal activity.
Do not share photos. As soon as you share a photo, you cannot retake it. You can consider this photo fair game for a crook to use for nefarious purposes.
If you think someone is trying to extort you
If you live in the United States and someone is using your own photos to extort you, there is help. You can:
Call the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative Crisis Hotline: 844-878-CCRI (2274) for help or advice.
Contact your local FBI office or the Internet Crime Complaints Center (IC3).
Report it to the FTC at Report Fraud.ftc.gov.
Contact the Trevor Project. If you’re under 25 and looking to contact an advisor from an LGBTQ + organization about what happened, the FTC suggests Trevor as a resource. It has free advisors available 24/7 who can speak to you by phone, online chat, and SMS.