Lessons for Preventing Online Dating Scams from The Tinder Swindler

If you’re like most business leaders, the very idea of Netflix’s “The Tinder Swindler” sent shivers down your spine. In the documentary, a con man uses online dating scams to manipulate people, tricks them into charging up their credit cards and convinces them to give him money from their savings.

The story exposes a shady internet reality where online users, employees and companies are in danger. If you’re concerned about the online safety and reputation of your business, this troubling documentary provides a better understanding of how to avoid costly scams and keep  your platform safe. Here are some of the key learnings from “The Tinder Swindler.”

Online Dating Scams and Pig Butchering Scams Are Sophisticated

Online dating scams threaten the security of your users, customers and your company reputation. According to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2021, romance scams cost victims more than $500 million in losses. As “The Tinder Swindler” demonstrates, traditional fraud-protection techniques aren’t effective at preventing sophisticated types of fraud. Simon Leviev, the titular villain of the documentary, didn’t use fraudulent credit cards or hack into existing customer accounts. Instead, he tricked his victims into dipping into their own bank accounts, applying for loans and pulling more victims into the trap. 

To effectively protect your customers and business it is important to understand how advanced online dating scams work. Here are a few sophisticated types of online dating scams to pay attention to:

Pig Butchering Scams

The pig butchering cryptocurrency scam combines romance scams and investment scams to defraud individuals or companies. The gruesome name is derived from the way scammers slowly build trust with their victims and encourage them to increase their investment—like fattening a pig—before swiping it all. In these cons, scammers use common communication and dating apps to connect with a victim, posing as an acquaintance, innocent stranger or potential romantic partner. Through a series of conversations, the scammer teaches the victim how to use a fake cryptocurrency investment app. Ultimately, the criminal steals the money the victim pours into the fake account, sometimes draining their entire retirement fund. 

Malware Scams

These online scams take a well-established fraudulent tool, malware, and spread it through a dating app, social media or other online platform. Once scammers establish a relationship with the victim, they convince them to download malware, giving the scammer access to the victim's home or work device.

Romance Scams

Romance scams can happen on many different online sites. In this case, scammers often use multiple social media sites or other online platforms to build a relationship with the victim. Once they gain the victim’s trust, the scammer tricks the victim into giving up personal information, company data, money, account access or other costly details. 

Online Scammers Steal More Than Money

“The Tinder Swindler” is an unfortunate reminder that online scammers inflict more than just financial damage. Victims of online dating scams may experience trauma, lose trust in online institutions or have their savings wiped out. These events can be devastating for users and customers. If a scam takes place within an online space associated with your business it can wreck digital trust and turn away customers forever. 

Online Scams Can Wreck a Business’s Reputation

To understand the reputational damage online scams can do to your company, look no further than the film’s name: “The Tinder Swindler.” In this case, a single scammer is tagged directly to the name of a popular dating site. Any time a scammer, bot or fake account tricks a victim on an online platform, it damages the reputation of the whole online community—a setting that relies on public trust. If users don’t believe their online counterparts are who they say they are, it discourages engagement and dampens participation. In these scenarios, the organization providing the online platform often takes the blame for not protecting its users. Word travels fast on the internet, and companies can be “canceled” in an instant.

How Companies Can Avoid Online Scams

One of the most troubling aspects of “The Tinder Swindler” is how exposed most companies are to similar types of online scams. Businesses have traditionally adopted a reactive approach to online abuse and fraud. In most cases, an online company will only intervene once the damage is done, leaving their reputation, users and employees impacted.

Companies can avoid online scams and create safer online communities by establishing online identity trust. A trusted individual will interact authentically. With this proactive approach, your business uses technology to cross-check billions of online data points, examine online connections and dig into relationships. Automating trust decisioning allows you to quickly spot trustworthy identities — providing a seamless experience for 'good' users and customers. This trust-based approach to online activity stops scams, reveals fake profiles, can reduce bots and helps maintain safer online spaces. Trust assessments can be applied throughout a consumer's journey at every digital touchpoint across an organization's platform.

Learn More Ways to Improve Online Trust and Safety

 “The Tinder Swindler” can be a wake-up call for businesses. There’s much more to learn in order to fend off scams and promote online safety. Want to learn how to grow online trust and improve safety for your company? Read our latest report on The Trust Paradigm for Online Business to learn how trusted identities are essential to building a safe online experience.