Extortion Scams Infest Dating Apps

Image: Grindr

Besides putting up with intolerance and job discrimination, LGBTQ+ people have to be constantly on guard against extortion. This has always been true but internet dating sites have added a new dimension to the problem.

The Federal Trade Commission is warning that it’s hearing about scams targeting people on LGBTQ+ dating apps, like Grindr and Feeld. And they aren’t your typical I-love-you, please-send-money romance scams. They’re extortion scams.

They usually work something like this: 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 gift card.

Scammers are especially threatening to 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’s what the FTC recommends:

  • 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.
  • 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 pay scammers to destroy photos or conversations. There’s no guarantee they’ll do it.

In fact, the FBI advises against paying extortion demands, which could support criminal activity. And remember that, once you share photos, you can’t take them back.

If you spot a scam, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.