Online dating can be hard enough, but now there’s a new thing to look out for – the possibility of being scammed on dating apps. Here’s what to look for to avoid this scary new trend.
Dating is hard enough – TRUST us, we know! But now with AI storming every corner of the world it was probably an inevitable that that it would invade the vulnerable world of dating apps. Researchers from Avast, a cybersecurity software company, have recently discovered another way in which AI is playing with our emotions – a dating scam tool they’ve nicknamed “LoveGPT”. A step beyond the traditional catfish and fake profile, this tool engages with its victims in conversation, bypasses security measures and is able to produce authentic – and emotional – texts. While the tool itself has been around for more than a decade, it has just recently integrated OpenAI’s technology, giving it another level of power.
And it’s right here in New Zealand – just as Dunedin secretary Tess* who was swindled by a bot on Tinder.
“it was almost a month of chatting on the app before I realised and I felt so dumb,” she tells Capsule. “I like to think of myself as fairy savvy when it comes to this stuff. I don’t fall for the usual post ones or the online bank account scams but this had me hook line and sinker.
“The messages were so real – sharing feelings and thoughts and emotions, and it even had Kiwi slang in there too. It was only when I was asked for money to get ‘Dave’ out of a tight spot before our first scheduled date that I started to suspect, and the more I pushed back, the more it began to glitch. I did some research and realised I’d been scammed by a bot.”
Sounds terrifying? Yes and no, says Avast Director of Offensive Security Stephen Kho. “Love-GPT may sound terrifying, but really, it’s just the latest twist in online dating scams. This tool has been in the works for more than ten years and it’s gotten pretty good at playing the dating game – creating realistic profiles that can slip past security measures like CAPTCHA, hold an interesting conversation, all the while scraping and storing user data to be used in various fraudulent schemes.
“Like other dating scams, Love-GPT preys on those letting their guard down as they look for love. The integration of ChatGPT technology into the scam tool this year has made spotting common grammatical errors a method of the past as interactions appear more realistic… which is how it is able to mimic a human so easily. The common motivation appears to be data harvesting, likely for the purpose of committing identity theft, financial fraud, or to create more convincing fake profiles for further scams, ultimately driven by financial gain.”
So, how the hell can you tell if you’re being scammed by Love-GPT? Says Stephen, think about it like spotting a traditional catfish. “It’s less about whether you’re talking to a bot and more about whether the person you’re chatting with is actually who they say they are.” Stephen says to watch out for these red flags:
- Inconsistencies in profile details and backstory
- Ask questions: If they claim to attend your university, who is their favourite professor? If they live nearby, what is their favourite brunch spot?
- Look closely at images: Are there signs an image is AI generated like missing or extra fingers, skewed lettering or asymmetrical clothing? Have the images been posted elsewhere by another person? You can reverse-search the image to see if it is linked to someone else.
- Prompt requests for personal contact information or attempts to move the conversation off the platform
- This may be a bid to collect further personally identifiable information
- Unusual or unnatural conversation patterns that could indicate scripted interactions
- Love-GPT has a built-in conversation template, but with the help of generative AI technology it can more easily deviate from this. However, this may look like asking for phone numbers, email addresses or other personal information and requests for money.
BUT, there are plenty of ways to protect yourself from Love-GPT and other online dating scams:
Protecting your profile against Love-GPT:
- Never share your full name, contact details, address or place of work in your profile. Your first name is enough
- Avoid using the same usernames across different dating or social media platforms
- Maximise your privacy settings on all online accounts and do not link your dating profile to other online profiles
- Be selective with your photos – make sure you don’t unintentionally give away your location through street or café signs
- Utilise comprehensive security software auch as Avast One to block unauthorised access to devices, secure your identity and protect against malicious threats.
When interacting on dating apps:
- Select dating sites where you have more control over who messages you
- Stick to the app or site’s built-in messaging system and refrain from sharing contact details
- Enjoy a separate, untraceable communication method like Google Voice number when ready to move beyond the app
- Never send money to an unknown person online
- Be wary of fast advances and oversharing
- This may be a bid to get you to lower your guard
- Don’t trust unknown links or downloads
Thankfully for Tess, she realised what was happening in the nick of time – “not that i would have given anyone, real or fake, money before i met them!” she says.
“But this opened my eyes up to how intrusive and realistic AI now is, and if i’m honest i was really gutted because I thought I was talking to someone who was actually interested in me. It’s hard enough dating in Dunedin without this kind of shit and yeah, I think my confidence took a bit of a dent, but I’ll survive and i’m sure i’ll jump back on the apps soon. But, with a much more guarded and careful attitude.”