Swiss citizens are being urged to take declarations of love from strangers met online with a pinch of salt and be alert to efforts to fleece them out of their money.
Switzerland’s police and crime prevention agency on Thursday launched a campaign warning the public against fraudulent love on the internet. The country documented more than 16,000 online love scams in 2018.
The campaign offers advice on how to recognise and deal with a “love scam”.
How do love scams work?
Fake profiles are created on social media and platforms facilitating encounters between potential romantic partners. After a contact has been established, the perpetrator quickly pretends to be in love. Amorous declarations are delivered via Skype, WhatsApp and email.
The fraudster pretends to want to meet the victim in real life, but shortly before the agreed date calamity strikes and the encounter is no longer possible. The scammer will offer reasons such as an accident, robbery or illness and request that the victim make a cash transfer to pay for treatment, travel or other costs. A face-to-face encounter never materialises.
Emotional and financial damage
Such experiences can be emotionally as well as financially bruising. The campaign, “And you? Did you say yes?” was launched in the Swiss capital Bern. Switzerland’s crime prevention unitExternal link recommends victims of romantic online fraud press charges. The police report should include the profile names, phone numbers and email addresses associated with the fraudster.
The campaign urges victims not to blame themselves.
AI against fraudsters
The campaign is supported by Anibis.ch, a small advertisements provider in French-speaking Switzerland, which, according to Thursday’s announcement, has been working closely with law enforcement authorities.
Anibis.ch uses artificial intelligence to filter the roughly 12,600 classified ads which are published on its website every day. In this test phase, fraudulent ads could be blocked from the outset. However, fraudsters also learn from experience. They can adapt and develop increasingly complex strategies to bypass security measures.
According to reports from the police and the crime prevention unit, the number of internet fraud cases has risen from 9,238 in 1990 to 16,319 in 2018, an increase of 76%.
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