FBI warns that cybercriminals are looking for money laundering partners through dating sites

The FBI cybercrime department has notified users of a new type of online fraud.

In these campaigns, cybercriminals use dating sites to try to recruit victims so that they can help them launder stolen money. Previously, criminals have already applied various schemes to help involve people from outside for money laundering.

However, this time a distinctive feature of malicious transactions was the use of dating sites.

Such resources are usually used for slightly different operations, during which attackers play the role of a man or woman in search of a romantic relationship.

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Having established close contact with the victim, the offender applied various tricks, the main purpose of which was to fish out money. For example, a criminal asked for money for a ticket to meet in person, or a security deposit because he was in a difficult position.

“In 2017, more than 15,000 people filed complaints with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) alleging they were victims of confidence/romance fraud and reporting losses of more than $211 million. In 2018, the number of victims filing these complaints increased to more than 18,000, with more than $362 million in losses—an increase of more than 70 percent over the previous year”, — report in FBI.

Now, according to a document published by the FBI, cyber fraudsters have changed their approach slightly- instead of asking for help with money, they are asking to become the so-called “money mules” (a special term that describes a person who helps criminals launder money).

«After a few months of developing trust, the actor will tell the victim about a lucrative business opportunity. The actor will inform the victim there are investors willing to fund the project, but they need a U.S. bank account to receive funds. The victim is asked to open a bank account or register a limited liability company on her name and then to receive and send money from that account to other accounts controlled by the actor», — writes FBI department.

The FBI warns that dating sites users are also at risk. They do not lose their own money, but they can easily face criminal prosecution and even a prison term for complicity in criminal operations.

The FBI advises:

Do not ignore any facts which seem inconsistent and be aware of the following common techniques used by romance scammers:

  1. Immediate requests to talk or chat on an email or messaging service outside of the dating site.
  2. Claims that your introduction was “destiny” or “fate,” especially early in communication.
  3. Claims to be from the U.S. but is currently living, working, or traveling abroad.
  4. Asks for money, goods, or any similar type of financial assistance, especially if you have never met in person.
  5. Asks for assistance with personal transactions (opening new bank accounts, depositing or transferring funds, shipping merchandise, etc.).
  6. Reports a sudden personal crisis and pressures you to provide financial assistance. Be especially wary if the demands become increasingly aggressive.
  7. Tells inconsistent or grandiose stories.
  8. Gives vague answers to specific questions.
  9. Claims to be recently widowed or claims to be a U.S. service member serving overseas.
  10. Disappears suddenly from the site then reappears under a different name using the same profile information.

The FBI also advises:

  1. Never send money to someone you meet online, especially by wire transfer.
  2. Never provide credit card numbers or bank account information without verifying the recipient’s identity.
  3. Never share your Social Security number or other personally identifiable information that can be used to access your accounts with someone who does not need to know this information.
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Daniel Zimmermann

Daniel Zimmermann has been writing on security and malware subjects for many years and has been working in the security industry for over 10 years. Daniel was educated at the Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany and currently lives in New York.

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