Beware romance scams as Facebook launches dating app

Investigators say scam artists are gearing up to take advantage of consumers on Facebook's new dating app.

Finding a soulmate is already pretty tough, but here's another reason to keep your guard up. Facebook (FB) is launching a dating application later this year, and users are already perceiving a rise in "catfishers" -- crooks pretending to be lovelorn in an attempt to pull off a romance scam.

"Crooks use Facebook to target vulnerable and lonely people. It seems to a fair bet that those same criminals will see a new Facebook dating service as a huge opportunity," said Danny Boice, president of Trustify, a private investigation firm.

Unfortunately, even in the best circumstances, online dating is beset with fraud -- both innocuous and criminal. Some 54 percent of online daters think someone they've been corresponding with has misrepresented themselves in some way, said Aaron Smith, associate director at the Pew Research Center.

That can be as simple as lying about your age or looks, or attempting to pretend that you're single when you're actually married. However, the most common online dating scam involves catfishers who are looking to con victims out of money.

Over the past three years, Trustify has investigated catfishing cons that cost victims upwards of $5 million. More than 85 percent of these scams started on or involved Facebook, Boice said.

Boice believes that scammers target Facebook because of the site's con-friendly demographics and the vast number of potential victims. A whopping 83 percent of adult women use the site as do 75 percent of adult men, according to SproutSocial. And unlike many other social media sites that mainly appeal to millennials, Facebook's audience skews mature -- an important factor for con artists looking for lonely people with money.

According to a recent Better Business Bureau study of romance scams, roughly half of victims who reported their age were over 50. And victims are twice as likely to be women as men.

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