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And if you replace “collect an inheritance” with “find true love,” they’re an increasing menace for dating apps and services. But they are an increasingly important front for criminals, who in turn use increasingly sophisticated methods to snare their marks, and take them for whatever they can.
A recently released list, by a fraud-busting company called Scamalytics, of the top lines and photos used in profiles by online dating grifters shows that while the range of sophistication may vary, the end goal is always the same: To fleece romance-seekers out of their money.
If one bot network pushes out the same garbled phrase to millions of profiles, it can quickly skew the pick-up line popularity contest.
These bots aren’t necessarily looking for love, or even for a direct cash transfer; they’re often simply trying to convince their marks to install something, like an app, in a case of direct marketing gone gross.“In some ways the target isn’t really the victim of anything other than having their time wasted, and installing a game that they don’t necessarily want,” says Winchester of these bot-based shakedowns.
And Nigerian dating sites is a way out as we see it.“But the operator of the bot is collecting payments for generating downloads, without ever having to interact with the user themselves.”If someone’s going to fall for a fake profile, that’s about as innocuous a result as one can hope for.The bigger danger comes from human interaction, where, as in those familiar scam email exchanges, the person behind the profile doesn’t want your heart; they just want your money. While the UK’s favored scammer line sounds ridiculous, the top spot in the US goes to “i am very easy going and laid back.” Okay, so it’s no Pablo Neruda.The result, Scamalytics, is a company that’s able not only to identify a number of key profile traits—in the “low hundreds,” says Winchester—but to measure how they play against one another for a more complete picture of who’s real and who’s swindling.“Features that in isolation may not give you too much information, in combination become much more powerful,” says Winchester.“We then take the learnings from that academic exercise, and try to scale them up into a production environment that works at enormous speed.”Some of those indicators are proprietary, but a few are fairly obvious.