39% Indians’ potential love interest turning out to be scammers
India – February 13, 2024 — Today, McAfee, a global leader in online protection, unveils its second annual “Modern Love” study, about the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools in online dating, and the implications this has for increased catfishing and romance scams. This study surveyed 7,000 people in seven countries worldwide, including India. The rise of powerful AI tools complicates the online dating landscape. By leveraging easy-to-use AI tools, romance scammers can craft convincing messages and realistic profile images to trick people looking for love online.
The key findings of this study revealed that 77% of Indians said they’d come across fake profiles and/or photos that look AI-generated on dating websites or apps, or on social media. Further, the prevalence of romance scams emerged with 39% of Indians saying their conversations with a potential love interest online turned out to be with a scammer. 26% said they’d talked with a potential love interest, to discover it was actually an AI-generated bot and not a real person.
91% of Indians revealed they, or someone they know, have been contacted by a stranger through social media or text message and started to “chat” with them regularly to know them better. With that in mind, those looking for love are often more vulnerable to scams when connecting with strangers, and cybercriminals use that vulnerability to their advantage by engaging in long and sophisticated attempts to steal from victims.
Furthermore, the study also discovered that more than half, 65% Indians have used ChatGPT/AI to help create pics or other content for a dating app. Specifically this Valentine’s Day, 56% of Indians are planning to or considering using AI to write messages for their love interest as it helps boost their confidence. However, this contrasts sharply with people’s feelings about receiving AI-generated content: 60% of people said they would be hurt or offended if they found out their Valentine’s message was written by a machine / Artificial Intelligence.
Despite mixed feelings and experiences, the effectiveness of AI is undeniable: 81% of people reported receiving more interest and better responses using AI-generated content than when they drafted or used their own original content.
And if you’re not on dating apps/sites, the McAfee Labs team reveals you still need to exercise caution online with an increase in Valentine-related scams. This includes Valentine-related malware campaigns (25% surge), malicious URLs (300% increase), and a variety of romance-themed spam and email scams (a staggering 400% increase), with the majority focused on Valentine’s shopping and gifts. McAfee Labs expects these numbers will continue rising as February 14 gets closer, urging vigilance.
“The possibilities of AI are endless, and unfortunately, so are the perils. For people who are shy about starting conversations, short on time to craft the perfect message, or whose photos could be brightened, AI offers tools to help enjoy all the fun and excitement that comes with online dating.,” said Steve Grobman, McAfee’s Chief Technology Officer.
“Unfortunately, we know cybercriminals also use AI to scale malicious activity. With love-seekers spending more time online leading up to Valentine’s Day, scammers are using AI to pose as love interests to steal your money or personal information. We encourage people to balance romantic hope with healthy skepticism, to pause before sharing sensitive information online, and to ensure they use the right tools to protect their privacy, identity, and personal information,” continued Grobman.
Steps for protecting yourself from online romance and AI scams.
People can help prevent financial and emotional heartbreak by taking the following steps:
- Scrutinize any direct messages you receive from a love interest, via a dating app or social media. One way to spot a scammer is to watch for consistent, AI-generated messages. These are often quite generic or lack substance. Additionally, it’s important to be sure not to click on any links in messages you receive from someone you have not met in person.
- Do a reverse-image search of any profile pictures the person uses. If the search results show that your love interest is associated with another name or with details that don’t match up with what they’ve told you, you may be chatting with a scammer.
- Never send money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in person, even if they send you money first. Scammers often send money to soften up their victim and build trust, so don’t share personal or account information, even if the other person is forthcoming with theirs.
- Talk to someone you trust about this new love interest. It can be easy to miss things that don’t add up when you are feeling hopeful and excited. So, pay attention to your friends or family when they show signs of concern, and take the relationship slowly.
- Invest in tools to help identify online scams. McAfee’s portfolio of products includes innovative protection features, such as McAfee Scam Protection, that detects and protects you in real time from never-before-seen threats and scams – whether that’s dangerous links shared on text, email, search results, or social media. In addition, McAfee recently announced deepfake detection is on the horizon, furthering McAfee’s commitment to use AI to fight AI scams and help arm consumers with the ability to detect deepfakes.
The survey was conducted online in January 2024 by Market Research Company, MSI-ACI via email inviting people 18 years and older to complete an online questionnaire. In total 7,000 adults completed the survey from 7 countries included the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, India, and Japan.