Aura Offers Insights Into Cyberscams

Women's Dating

Aura’s Inaugural List of The Top Cyberscams Offers Insights Into Romance Scams of 2024 

Chloë Hylkema

Written by: Chloë Hylkema

Chloë Hylkema

Chloë Hylkema loves using her writing skills to tell stories that matter. Her time as an English student at Emory University molded her into a detailed writer with a knack for the relatable. Chloë is familiar with what it means to date in the modern age, and she endeavors to write material that is both truthful and helpful. She has previously worked as lead campaign writer for an animal advocacy group and now brings her passion for engaging and actionable content to DatingAdvice.com.

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Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

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The Short Version: 2023 was a big year for cyberscammers, but internet users can learn how to protect themselves in 2024. Dr. Zulfikar Ramzan is the Chief Scientist for the digital safety platform Aura, and he told us about the most notorious scams of the last year and what internet users can do to avoid falling victim to scams. With the right internet safety toolkit and access to useful resources, every internet user can avoid handing over private information to scammers. 

Love can hurt. And it’s surely been hurting America’s pocketbooks. According to data collected in 2022 by the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network, 70,000 Americans reported a romance scam and reported losses tallied at $1.3 billion. Unfortunately for consumers, that’s just the tip of the cyberscam iceberg.

The annual FBI report released in March 2023 exposed that Americans lost $10.3 billion dollars to internet scams in 2022 — the highest in five years. There’s money to be made online, and scammers have been sure to get their piece of the pie. 

Many romance scams begin with fraudulent profiles on dating sites and apps. Scammers often use the guise of getting to know their victims romantically to get as much personal and private information out of them as possible. Once the victim feels comfortable enough with the scammer, the lies and money requests begin. 

The FTC’s report got into the details of romance scams, and reported the most common lies romance scammers tell victims to get money. The top lie was “I or someone close to me is sick, hurt or in jail,” followed by “I can teach you how to invest.” Romance scammers target individuals who are willing to share their information online. But in the Wild West of the internet, being free with your personal info is the most dangerous thing you can do.

While cyberscamming may be an emerging way for fraudsters to make money, internet users can still protect themselves against scams. With the proper internet safety toolkit and digital protection tools, users can enjoy going online safely. Aura, a digital safety platform powered by AI, is on the frontlines of protecting users.

Aura offers digital protection for everything that matters, with services for financial fraud protection, identity theft protection, parental controls, and cyberbullying protection, among other services. The digital security company recently released the inaugural annual list of top cyberscams identified by its Smart Network, dubbed “The Scammies.” The list exposes where users are losing money and offers insights into what to look out for going into 2024.

Dr. Zulfikar Ramzan is the Chief Scientist for Aura. He talked to us about romance scams, internet safety, and what users need to to to protect themselves online.

“Scams continue to get more dangerous every day,” Dr. Ramzan said. “And being aware of the signs of a scam is crucial to staying safe online.”

2023 Scam Trends Show What To Look Out For In 2024

“The Scammies” identified 10 specific cyberscams that financially hurt internet users in 2023. The top scam reported by Aura was a Tax Day-related scam. Scammers used the urgent April 18th deadline to get users on fraudulent tax filing sites, where they would unknowingly hand their private information over to scammers. On April 18th, Aura witnessed a 2,700% increase in scammy websites related to tax filing.

The second most lucrative scam was tied to student loans. When student loan interest restarted in October 2023, scammers took advantage of the confusion caused by multiple repayment date extensions. Scammers even benefitted from Beyonce’s Renaissance tour. Aura saw a 918% increase in fraudulent ticket-selling websites when tickets first went on sale in February 2023.

Scammers will take advantage of any event, occasion, or holiday to make money. Dr. Ramzan said a majority of these scams involve fraudulent websites that collect personal information under the guise of donating to charity, buying an item, or purchasing a service. Scammers are good at making fake websites look super convincing, so Dr. Ramzan shared some tips to identify fake sites.

scammers use too-good-to-be-true tactics
Dr. Ramzan urged internet users to stay aware of scam websites, especially around big holidays.

“Generally speaking, more often than not, these scam websites have a too-good-to-be-true offer,” Dr. Ramzan said. “And like they say, if it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true.”

Dr. Ramzan also suggested sticking to the sites you know, especially around the holiday season. “At the really shopping-heavy times of year, you want to be very careful and stick to the sites you know well. Stay away from brand new sites that you’ve never engaged with.”

Encryption is a major part of digital security on the internet. Encryption is the process of converting information or data into a code, especially to prevent unauthorized access. While a site’s encryption status surely gives insight into its security status — never share your information on an unencrypted site – it’s not always perfect.

“If you look at your browser, there’s typically a small lock icon that appears in the address bar,” Dr. Ramzan said. “That lock icon tells you that the data is encrypted from the sender and the recipient. Having said that, just because a site is encrypted doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to engage with, but it’s something to look out for.”

Avoiding unencrypted sites you’ve never heard of is essential to staying safe online and should be considered a basic aspect of online safety. Dr. Ramzan told us that scammers are becoming increasingly adept at creating sites that appear legitimate to an unassuming customer, so the safety tactics people may be accustomed to using online may no longer be useful. 

Valentine’s Day Scams On The Rise in 2023

Unfortunately, scammers are willing to take advantage of people’s romantic inclinations to make money. “The Scammies” ninth entry was scams related to Valentine’s Day. These scams often took the form of fake online stores offering special deals for people shopping for their special someone.

In the few days leading up to Valentine’s Day, Aura witnessed a 104% increase in related website scams compared with January. Valentine’s Day scams were prolific in 2023, but scammers have more than fraudulent online shops to trick internet users.

Romance scams are a real concern in the modern dating landscape. Online dating makes it easier than ever to meet and chat with other singles in your area, but it also, unfortunately, makes it easy for scammers to find you. While many dating sites have intense verification processes, fake profiles can still slip through the cracks.

cyberscams take advantage of romance
Romance scams are often devastating experiences for victims.

Fake profiles on dating apps are among the leading perpetrators of online romance scams. Scammers create profiles on dating apps with stolen photographs and fake names, often posing as an attractive young person, and begin messaging as many profiles as possible. Once they find another user who seems to trust them, the scamming goes into full swing.

Romance scammers build trust with victims by flirting, sharing fake pieces of ‘personal information,’ and even entering virtual relationships with them. Romance scams are often a devastating experience for victims, but there are ways to avoid romance scammers while dating online.

“First and foremost, I think it’s important to recognize that when you’re dealing with someone on the internet, you ultimately really never know who you’re talking to if you haven’t met them in person,” Dr. Ramzan said. “Always take things with a grain of salt and realize there are people out there trying to get your personal information by any means possible.”

Dr. Ramzan said practicing internet safety protects users against all kinds of scams, including romance scams. Two core tenets of online safety are never sharing private information with an unverified person or site and never sending money to anyone online.

Aura’s AI Keeps Internet Users Safe

If you or someone you know has experienced a cyberscam, it’s essential to act fast. “There’s a bunch of things you have to do really quickly when you have a certain credential compromised,” Dr. Ramzan said. “If you know what specific site or credentials were compromised, start with those first.”

Users who think they may have exposed sensitive information online should start by changing the password to their email and any other passwords that may have been compromised. Dr. Ramzan also suggested users sign up for credit monitoring services if they believe their Social Security number or credit card information may have been compromised.

“Usually, you can sign up with each of the major credit bureaus and get reports from them,” Dr. Ramzan said. “The next thing I recommend is those basic blocking and tackling pieces.” Scammers can do so much with just a few pieces of personal information that it’s helpful to have experts who know what to look for and can direct a user’s attention to the most pressing matters in securing their personal information.

“Aura offers a hotline that people can call after they’ve been victimized by identity theft,” Dr. Ramzan said. “It’s essentially a white glove service where we’ll take you step by step and tell you what to do, where to go, in a really easy and immediate way.”

Aura’s hotline for identity theft triage is just the beginning of the security company’s offerings. Aura also offers every adult member $1 million in insurance coverage, 24/7 expert fraud support, transparent pricing, and a 60-day money-back guarantee. With the online safety and privacy of the whole family on the line, Aura is definitely worth a try.

Aura Digital Security logo
Aura offers 24/7 digital security for the whole family.

Aura provides proactive protection against scammers of all sorts. The platform’s financial fraud protection alerts users within minutes if their credit file has been compromised and allows users to lock their Experian file with a simple tap. Aura’s privacy assistant feature keeps users’ data private and reduces spam by removing personal information from data brokers.

Aura uses AI to make its online safety services stronger, faster, and more reliable. “The reason we use AI is that when you look at this landscape of threats, they’re constantly evolving and becoming more and more sophisticated,” Dr. Ramzan said. 

He continued, “AI can go beneath patterns and look for more subtle cues and contexts. AI allows us to make an inference about whether this set of activities looks suspicious or could be malicious. AI has a great, natural role to play in being able to detect and deal with these kinds of threats.”

Whatever your cybersecurity needs may be, Aura can lend a helping hand. Scammers are only getting better at navigating the quickly changing digital landscape, so internet users need an advanced and well-equipped tool for protecting themselves.

“The average household can’t hire a security team to manage digital risks,” Dr. Ramzan said. “The first thing we did with Aura was bring all those pieces together into a holistic, intelligent safety solution that protects everything your family does online.”