Here’s how scammers threaten "closeted" LGBTQ+ people

Scammers are increasingly targeting people on LGBTQ+ dating apps, like Grindr and Feeld, warns the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). And they aren't your typical I-love-you, please-send-money romance scams. They're extortion scams.

Self-isolation amplified the feeling of solitude, and many people turned to technology for solace. Cybercriminals were quick to follow. FBI data shows that victims of romance fraud in the US lost over $475 million in 2019 alone.

The latest FTC alert warns about malicious actors targeting LGBTQ+ dating app. Here's how scammers operate: "A scammer poses as a potential romantic partner on an LGBTQ+ dating app, chats with you, quickly sends explicit photos, and asks for similar photos in return. If you send photos, the blackmail begins. They threaten to share your conversation and photos with your friends, family, or employer unless you pay — usually by a gift card. To make their threats more credible, these scammers will tell you the names of exactly who they plan to contact if you don't pay up. This is information scammers can find online by using your phone number or your social media profile."

Other scammers, according to FTC, threaten people who are "closeted" or not yet fully "out" as LGBTQ+. They may pressure you to pay up or be outed, claiming they'll "ruin your life" by exposing explicit photos or conversations. 

"Whatever their angle, they're after one thing — your money."

Here are some ways to avoid these scams:

Check out who you're talking to. Do a reverse image search of the person's profile picture to see if it's associated with another name or with details that don't match up – those are signs of a scam.

Don't share personal information with someone you just met on a dating app. That includes your cell phone number, email address, and social media profile.

Don't pay scammers to destroy photos or conversations. There's no guarantee they'll do it.

The FBI advises against paying extortion demands, which could support criminal activity.

"The FBI does not condone the payment of online extortion demands as the funds will facilitate continued criminal activity, including potential organized crime activity and associated violent crimes," it claims.

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