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FBI warns: New internet dating scam targets LGBTQ+ community

Written by on October 5, 2021

When it comes to dating online, many will let down their guard when seeking a match. Most people are aware of usual dating scams that ask for money after awhile of correspondence, generally after the point where the victim shows interest in the scammer. However, for the LGBTQ+ community, the scam involves blackmail.

A new warning from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about people being targeted on dating apps that cater to the LGBTQ+ community describes how LGBTQ+ users could be blackmailed.

These aren’t your typical I-love-you, please-send-money romance scams. They are extortion scams.

They usually work something like this: a scammer poses as a potential romantic partner, chats with the victim, quickly sends explicit photos, and asks for similar photos in return. If the victim sends photos, the blackmail begins.

The extortionist threatens to share your conversation and photos with your friends, family, or employer unless you pay — usually by 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 easily find online by using your phone number or your social media profile.

Some of these bad actors threaten people who are 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.

FBI Tech Tuesday warns f blackmail scam targeting LGBTQ+ sites

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

If you’re looking for love on dating apps, 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 profiles.
  • Don’t pay scammers to destroy photos or conversations. There’s no guarantee they’ll do it, and you will definitely lose your money.
  • In fact, the FBI advises against paying extortion demands, which could support criminal activity. Remember that, once you share photos, you can’t take them back.

Persons under 25 and looking to connect with a counselor at an LGBTQ+ organization about what happened can reach out to The Trevor Project. They have free counselors, available 24/7, who can talk to victims through their phone, chat, and text services.

As always, if you are the victim of this online extortion scam, you should also report the incident to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at or call your FBI local office.

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