The internet has been a mix of good and bad since its introduction. While it has opened a world of opportunities, it’s also a great tool for scammers to trick their targets. Cyberattackers carry out their fraudulent activities in many ways.
One of the common scams on the internet is honey trapping. It involves a romantic relationship between the victim and the attacker. Of course, relationships are a vital aspect of human life. But we need to be careful. According to FTC, losses via this romance scam amounted to a record $304 million in 2020.
So what is a honeytrap? Read on to learn more about it, its types, and prevention tips.
What is a Honeytrap?
A honey trap is a scam tactic that typically involves a fraudulent dating site and proposals from unknown but charming people trying to be your lover or get to know you. When you fall into this trap, you can get your system infected or end up losing money.
Online dating sites are common hunting grounds for honeypot scammers. They aim to manipulate people desperately searching for a partner or soulmate. While these tricksters use dating sites, they might reach out to you via email, too.
You may have encountered mail in your spam or junk box inviting you to “find the love of your life, or “meet a sexy girl.” These messages most probably contain links that lead to a malicious site. Still, these traps don’t solely rely on malware and technology-based tricks. They’re often based on emotional manipulation and extortion too.
How Do Honey Trap Scams Work?
The way honeytrap scams work is simple: The trick is to steal your heart, money, or sensitive information. Not everyone you meet on a dating site is looking for love or genuine friendship; you’ll find disguised people looking for prey to trap. These attackers create fake dating profiles using pictures of other people—including military personnel, models, or trustworthy-looking individuals.
The scammers message their target, professing their love or willingness to start a genuine friendship. Once the romantic relationship is deep, they typically express a desire to see their victims. Usually, this involves convincing the victim to send them money for “visa processing.” Essentially, honeypot scammers cook up various emotionally-manipulative stories with one goal in mind: To extort money from their victims.
Common tales include a sick relative needing urgent surgery, funds required with the promise of a rewarding payback, or some kind of turmoil that can only be remedied with money.
Nowadays, these scammers even involve their victims in online bank fraud. They ask their victims to set up an online account then transfer stolen or fake money into the account. After that, they tell the victim to wire the funds out of the country.
Honey Trap Types
There are two popular honey trapping types on the internet.
The first type is the “Nigerian royalty” scam. This “lover” is wealthy, but there’s a small hiccup: They need a few hundred or thousand dollars to obtain their vast wealth (could be for legal reasons or visa needs).
The promise is that once they get the inheritance, they’re going to get married and enjoy the money. Sounds like BS, right? To a loving heart, anything seems natural, and this instinct is what the scammers leverage. Once the victim pays, the supposed lover is nowhere to be found.
The “Russian” scam is the second honey trap type. This one usually involves a poor person seeking help from their newfound sweetheart. Scammers in this category mostly target rich individuals. They entice the person into a relationship, make them fall in love, and start demanding expensive gifts—anything from furs and jewelry to yachts and penthouses could be in the mix.
The relationship slowly drains the victim of their wealth before the attacker ceases contact or, in extreme cases, divorces the victim. In most cases, the victims are flattered by the presence of their attractive partner. Even if they know the deal, they’re already way too deep in, so they don’t try to push the perpetrators away.
Examples of Honeytrap Scams
Honey traps, from the USA to Europe and everything in between, know no age, gender, or geographic location. Indeed, anyone from teenagers to sexagenarians are potential targets of the honeytrap scam.
A recent Netflix hit documentary, The Tinder Swindler, explores real-life stories of an infamous honeypot scammer. It tells of Simon Leviev’s deception and exploitation of young women worldwide via the popular Tinder dating app.
The Tinder Forex scam is another example. These scammers create fake profiles of charming and wealthy personas. They flaunt their flamboyant lifestyles and portray themselves as investors ready to share their success secrets.
This technique tricks unsuspecting people into asking the perpetrators how they made their money. The end game involves wiring money to the scammer for investments. More often than not, these scammers have fake brokers and forex trading websites.
Why are Honeytrap Scams Effective?
Honeytrap scams are effective because people are desperate to find love or sexual relationships. Millions of people rely on online dating apps or sites to meet their soulmates. Scammers leverage this natural inclination among their victims.
We Fall For Subjective Beauty
It’s no surprise that scammers choose model photos or trust-inducing personalities like the military. While the “model face” may be subjective, it has a carnal influence on people. The same goes for the “trust in the uniform.”
Madly in Love?
We can’t say that all the people who fall victim to honey trapping are madly in love with the scammer. However, the timing of all the requests is just perfect to charm the target and sweep them off their feet. It’s no secret that love and desire turn people stupid.
Are People So Ignorant?
Even if a person is aware of honeytrap scams, they, perhaps understandably, refuse to believe that it’s the case with them. They can’t fathom that their favorite person, the “prince/princess charming” can be so deceptive.
Honey pot scams has been more effective during the COVID-19 pandemic, with most victims reporting that their lovers could not travel due to restrictions.
Honeytrap Detection: How to Spot a Honeytrap Scam?
Love and genuine relationships are some of the things that humans crave. However, love hurts—romance scams can break your heart and empty your purse. The best way to counter this attack is by identifying red flags that indicate honeytrap scams. Below are some tips on honeytrap detection.
The Damsel in Distress
Have you come across an attractive and helpless person online? Are they appealing to your kindness and financial abilities? It’s most probably a honey trap. Scammers try to take advantage of kindness and eagerness while leveraging physical attraction.
The Wealthy “Royalty”
Is your internet date very wealthy? Do they drive fantastic cars and collect art? Do they invite you over to their villa for a party or send you to chill at a five-star hotel? Do they generally sound too good to be true? Have you ever seen their face? Can they prove their fortune? Ask yourself if the person on the other end of the screen is what they claim to be.
Be on the lookout for suspicious behavior. No matter the situation, try to learn as much about the person as possible. Do they avoid taking photos? Do they call you via a video chat? What do you really know about them?
Listen to your gut. If something bugs you, the situation is definitely worth taking a deeper look at.
Protect Yourself from Honey Traps
People’s desperation and craving for love make them vulnerable to this attack. However, it doesn’t mean there’s no way to prevent it. Here are some ways to avoid this trap.
- Steer away from unknown dating sites
- Be careful with the known ones too
- Don’t open emails from strangers
- Learn to identify spam emails
- Don’t trust generous offers
- Use an antivirus program and setup proper spam filters
- Never wire money to any sweetheart or friend that you’ve never met before
The internet is full of people with different intentions—both bad and good. Naturally, you can’t tell who has good intentions at once or only by texting. When you chat online, be vigilant and take note of our prevention tips.
Educating yourself about these crimes and becoming more self-aware can easily help you prevent honeytrap scams online. Remember, never send money to people you haven’t met.