The business of romance scams: protecting your users and your brand Skip to content

The business of romance scams: protecting your users and your brand

Read time:
7 minutes

February 15, 2024

Love is in the air – and so is fraud.

Online dating has become the most popular way for couples to meet, with over 40% of all US couples having found each other through online dating applications. Unfortunately, not everyone finds luck in love. Many people are willing to go to great lengths for love, presenting precisely the type of opportunity that fraudsters seek to exploit for their own personal gain.


Lost to Romance Scams
in 2022, reported by 70,000 US victims

Source: FTC

In 2022, 70,000 people in the US reported falling victim to romance scams, suffering losses amounting to $1.3 billion. This figure is nearly identical to the size of the entire US Online Dating market in 2023!  

Romance scams aren’t a new phenomenon. For as long as the internet has existed, fraudsters have preyed on the vulnerable, hiding behind avatars and love stories. It’s been proven time and time again that online dating channels are seen by fraudsters as a lucrative revenue source, and they will continue to take advantage of vulnerable individuals unless proper safeguards are put into place. 

The methods used by fraudsters have evolved; they no longer have to try to convince their victims to send small amounts of money through countless emails and text conversations. Nowadays, technology enables them to make video calls using life-like deepfake avatars to support their narrative and build trust more easily with their victims. 

Additionally, there’s no need for advanced technological skills. Thanks to rapid advancements in deepfake technologies over the past five years, it is now possible to access fraud-as-a-service deepfakes. These allow any criminal to seamlessly – and in minutes – create a realistic synthetic avatar to hide behind. 

Thankfully, there are several methods available to protect online users.

A network of lies: Location spoofing and multi-accounting

Oftentimes, scammers will have multiple accounts across various platforms, creating numerous fake profiles on different dating applications and social networking platforms. According to the US Secret Service, many of these scammers operate overseas, participating in organized enterprise fraud rings. These operations are known to go to great lengths, including spoofing phone numbers and hiring actors to communicate with victims over the phone. Creating multiple accounts allows fraudsters to evade detection from law enforcement, target more victims with different accounts and hide their true intentions by separating their activities and making it more difficult for these schemes to be traced and connected. 

In recent years, there has also been a rise in the use of geolocation spoofing techniques, including virtual private networks (VPNs), proxy servers, GPS manipulation tools and virtual machines. Similar to the practice of multi-accounting, location spoofing enables fraudsters to conceal their actual location, thus evading detection. It also permits scammers to target victims in different countries, significantly expanding the scale and scope of their criminal activities.

Both multi-accounting and location spoofing are potential indicators of fraud. However, with reliable geolocation, device and user data, you will have the tools you need to identify multiple accounts operating on the same device, detect sophisticated location spoofing methods, uncover suspicious activities and gain endless insights into potential fraud risks

Accurate geolocation is not only vital in combating fraud on online social media platforms and dating sites but also in enhancing the user experience. By onboarding more legitimate users and protecting them from malicious actors, accurate geolocation helps increase revenue streams by reducing fraud and establishing a brand reputation built on integrity and trust.

Fake profiles: The plague of false information

While it’s critical to understand where each user and account is coming from, knowing who they actually are is just as important. Dating applications alone are responsible for nearly 40% of all cases of catfishing, and this number is even higher on social networking platforms. In addition, 10% of all new accounts on free dating sites are fake. With the proliferation of AI, particularly deepfake technology and fake ID generators, criminals are well-equipped to create convincing fake profiles that can even bypass some identity verification processes.

Recently, an organization called OnlyFake was found to be able to produce highly realistic fake IDs from 26 countries at a low rate of $15 each. These IDs allegedly bypassed verification at various cryptocurrency exchanges and financial service providers, including Kraken, Paypal and Bybit. The concern extends to social networking platforms and dating applications with the advent of advanced deepfakes. Modern deepfake technologies enable individuals to mimic the voices of loved ones, create fake live video streams, generate deepfake videos or photos and analyze their targets’ behavior based on publicly available information. With all of this information combined, fraudsters can create credible fake profiles with the ability to send realistic, personalized messages or to impersonate someone entirely.

Fortunately, with strong KYC, you can easily verify the identities of your users and keep the bad actors out from the get-go. Finding a KYC solution that verifies multiple data sources, including personal identity information, phone numbers, email insights, ID, selfie verification, sanctions lists, criminal records, and more, enables you to identify the true identity of a user right from the onboarding stage. Doing so while verifying that user’s true location will ensure that you’re bringing on more legitimate users, and in the process, protecting your users from hidden threats and establishing trust.

Geolocation and KYC: The perfect match

The amount lost to romance scams will only continue to grow, especially as fraudsters gain access to sophisticated technologies more easily than before. As long as fraudsters can spoof their location, create multiple accounts, and falsify their personal information, users on social networking platforms and dating applications will remain increasingly vulnerable to romance scams.

Fortunately, GeoComply’s fraud detection and prevention solutions empower your company to block multi-accounting attempts, identify advanced location spoofing methods, flag suspicious users and onboard more legitimate users to ensure that your platform is secure.

Boasting a dataset of over ten billion transactions per year, GeoComply’s historical and real-time analysis can flag suspicious users, leveraging hundreds of location data, device integrity checks and identity fraud checks per transaction. Our consortium data allows us to make determinations even the first time a device or location is seen, improving fraud prevention results from day one.

Geolocation is one of the best fraud prevention tools we have.

– Allen Ambrogio, former U.S Director of Operations, Tipico

GeoComply also enhances KYC processes and helps remove user friction, with no hidden costs or additional fees. In addition to having a single quick and smooth process for identity verification, GeoComply’s multi-award-winning KYC solution, is secure and reliable, leveraging data from multiple vendors and sources with one API call, and remaining up-to-date at all times with new rules, regulations and risk monitoring lists. 

For insights on how compliance-grade geolocation can identify multi-accounting, location spoofing and suspicious users, explore GeoComply Core here.

To understand how an all-in-one KYC solution can efficiently verify your users’ identity and eliminate bad actors from the start, discover IDComply here.

We’re here to help

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About GeoComply

GeoComply provides anti-fraud and cybersecurity solutions that prevent and detect fraud and help verify a user’s true digital identity. Trusted by leading brands and regulators for over 10 years, the company’s geolocation solutions are installed on over 400 million devices and analyze over 12 billion transactions every year. Specializing in compliance-grade geolocation technology, GeoComply offers AML, compliance and fraud solutions for the banking, cryptocurrency, payments, iGaming and media and entertainment industries, building an impressive list of customers, including Akamai, Amazon Prime Video, BBC, DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, Sightline Payments and over a hundred more companies globally. 

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