Romance scams are based on social engineering. The main goal of such scams is to lure the victim into developing a deep relationship with the person that the scammer is impersonating.
Audience and attack surface
The target audience is usually non-tech-savvy males, which want a companion and are feeling lonely. The scams are based catfishing, explained simply, building a whole personality and visual profile of a person that does not exist. The profiles usually involve photos of real people, but with different names, usually not-so-famous public figures are involved, simply because they have a lot of photos taken, which the scammers can use to build up a wall of confirmations that the person is somewhat real.
The attacks are most often on dating apps, chat applications and social media. It’s a known fact that most dating apps are filled with whats called bots. Bots are used to send a lot of messages and give generic reply back to the victim until a scammer is online and ready to handle the rest of the conversation. While you people might think that scams need to be quick, this type of scam is not one of them. The scam is usually from a month to years, because of human nature, and the fact that humans build relationships over time.
Things to look out for
A very big characteristic, and a tell sign that the person is trying to scam you, is if the person is not willing to make live calls or face meeting with you. This is because the photos are usually context-free, and chatting does not require any of the human features, such as speaking with your voice.
Types of attacks
When the relationship is established, and the victim is invested mentally, the scammer will also try to make him invest financially. This tactic of romance scamming is not really to hit any hard goals, for example, to get the of the victim’s money, but it’s perpetual, trying to make the victim invest small amounts over time. Usually, the story of requesting for money is that the person is trying to finish university, or that the person needs money to pay some fees or taxes, which after paying will think about traveling to the victim, so that they can ask for even more money for traveling by plane. After the victim gives the money, the traveling will abruptly cancel because and they will make an excuse. Those scams continue until the victim realizes that they’re being scammed, or the victim loses interest over time.
The more aggressive approach to this scam is to blackmail the victim. Blackmailing is a common tactic to most type of social scams, and the methodology of achieving the scam is to wait for the victim to open up about a deep secret they have, or by waiting for them to send them sexually explicit photos. Both of those things are then recorded and the scammer reveals himself. After which, he will request to be given a sum in a short amount of time before he releases the secrets and images to the public, such as his family, or if the person is in the higher ranks, to the media, such as news.