What Are Romance Scams And How To Protect Yourself From Them?

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The advancements in AI benefit not only regular users but also bad actors and scammers. Romance scams have been around for quite some time, where someone gains the victim’s trust before asking for a short loan. Previously, the scammers relied on text messages or voice calls to talk to the victim and establish a rapport. However, a new report discusses how such people have gained access to highly sophisticated face-swapping apps.

What Are Romance Scams?

In your time on social media and instant messaging platforms, you might have encountered several fake accounts or profiles. More often than not, the account owners use such profiles to initiate conversations with strangers.

Over time, bad actors gain their trust, and once they sense that the victim is romantically interested, they try to extort money by either pretending to be in a financial emergency or blackmailing them.

Scammers Are Using Live Deepfakes To Trick Their Victims

In the past, scammers mostly relied on texts or voice calls to lure in their prey. However, according to a report by Wired, romance scammers known as Yahoo Boys are using face-swapping apps to fool their victims.

First, the scammers use a setup of two smartphones, where one (with its rear camera) faces the other’s screen, which in turn is running a face-swapping app (with its camera on the scammer). The report also mentions using camera stands and ring lights to make the videos look more realistic.

In the second method seen in a video by the publication, scammers use a web camera to capture their face, which is changed into someone else’s by using AI-powered software. The video reveals that scammers can see their faces beside the altered deepfake. However, the victim only sees the modified version.

What’s more surprising is that the publication didn’t have to do a sting operation or send in underground investigators to obtain the video. Instead, scammers boast about their deepfake and image manipulation skills on Telegram groups, along with video footage.

Ways To Protect Yourself

Face swap tech

The first thing anyone should do is make a new thumb rule that they should never pick up audio or video calls from unknown numbers, not on WhatsApp or any other platform. Unless it’s a pre-scheduled call with someone you know, through a professional or a personal relationship, accepting random voice/video calls, especially from international numbers, could be dangerous.

Since romance scammers are more active on dating apps, people using such apps should be more careful about the people they interact with, especially if someone is hinting toward a financial crisis and might need some money from you.

With easy access to face-swapping or modification technology, scammers aim to increase your trust before they make a move and get some money out of your pockets. If you notice weirdly cropped or shaped images on the profile, it could be a sign that the person is impersonating someone else.

Even though scammers use pitch-bending tools, you can detect the weird robotic hint in their voices. Yes, it is difficult not to fall prey to such scams, where bad actors can pretend to be someone you know on voice or video calls, but with enough vigilance and presence of mind, one can protect themselves.

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Shikhar MehrotraShikhar Mehrotra
A tech enthusiast at heart, Shikhar Mehrotra has been writing news since college for an undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. Over the last four years, he has worked with several national and international publications, including Republic World, and ScreenRant, writing news, how-to explainers, smartphone comparisons, reviews, and list-type articles. When he is not working, Shikhar likes to click pictures, make videos for his YouTube channel, and watch the American sitcom Friends.

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