Firm names top types of dating fraud leading to lonely hearts and catfish scams

iovation, the provider of device intelligence for authentication and fraud prevention, today released the who, what and when of online dating fraud. The company determined online dating transactions–everything from account profile creation, login and the exchange of information between daters–had a higher chance of being fraudulent compared to other online industries. The company came to its findings based on its analysis of the hundreds of millions of online dating transactions and billions of total online transactions that it screens for fraudulent indicators every year.

“It’s well documented that half of all couples will meet online in the not too distant future,” said iovation’s Vice President of Operations and Co-Founder, Molly O’Hearn. “Cybercriminals typically try to capitalize on high-growth markets with targeted schemes and we are definitely seeing that in online dating.”

Mobile Usage in Online Dating
The convenience of being able to use a mobile device for online dating activities makes it highly attractive to daters worldwide. Looking at iovation’s data, mobile usage increased 12 percent over last year, growing from 57 percent in Q1 2015 to 64 percent in Q1 2016. iPhone use held steady at 24 percent for both years while Android use grew from 62 to 65 percent.

How Much Dating Fraud Occurs
In 2015, 1.39 percent of all transactions on online dating sites were fraudulent, slightly down from the 1.58 percent iovation saw in 2014. By comparison, the rate of fraud across all industries was lower than in dating, at 1.06 percent in 2015 and 1.27 percent in 2014. However, the rate of fraud in the gaming and retail industries last year was higher than online dating at 3.17 percent and 2.6 percent respectively.

Valentine’s Day Fraud
In February 2015, 1.23 percent of all online dating transactions were fraudulent. On February 14, 2015—Valentine’s Day—1.26 percent of all transactions were fraudulent on online dating sites. These figures are both lower than overall averages for online dating fraud in 2015, meaning that fraudulent transactions actually decreased somewhat leading into Valentine’s Day before picking up again.

Top Types of Dating Fraud
The top five types of fraud that occurred on online dating sites in 2015 were:

  1. Spam—Person is caught sending unsolicited bulk messages via emails, postings, and instant messages to promote other products, websites or companies
  2. Identity mining—Scammer makes any attempt to illegitimately acquire personal information from other users through means of phishing, keystroke logging, creating fake business websites and other methods
  3. Scams/solicitations—User takes advantage of the community to promote nonexistent services and products, or to solicit services from legitimate members
  4. Profile misrepresentation—Fraudster posts inaccurate identity information in a profile and/or uses bogus profile photos
  5. Credit card fraud—Cybercriminal uses a fake or stolen credit card to create multiple or premium accounts to scam users

“Scammers are clearly leveraging online dating sites as a new targeted marketing channel to serve up unsolicited offers,” said O’Hearn. “At the same time, there are still plenty of ‘catfish’—people who pretend to be someone they're not to pursue deceptive online romances.”

Many times, identity mining dating sites is the first step in a broader fraud ring value chain. They collect validated identities that they can then use to open accounts at other businesses like credit issuers. Those newly minted cards can then be used to purchase a wide variety of online goods and services.

Where Dating Fraud Originates
While online dating scams take place worldwide, the highest percentage of fraudulent transactions in 2015 originated from these countries:

  1. United States —18 percent
  2. Ghana—11 percent
  3. Nigeria —10 percent
  4. France —8 percent
  5. Vietnam —7 percent

When Fraud Occurs
According to iovation, the highest percentage of fraud attempts on online dating sites in 2015 occurred between 9am to 12pm UTC. This is 1am to 4am PST and 4am to 7am EST.

iovation is a leader in fraud prevention solutions and regulatory compliance such as EU GDPR and PSD2.

About TransUnion

TransUnion Global Fraud & Identity Solutions unite both consumer and device identities to detect threats across markets while ensuring friction-right user experiences. The solutions, all part of the IDVision with iovation suite, fuse traditional data science with machine learning to provide businesses unique insights about consumer transactions, safeguarding tens of millions of transactions each day.

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