Exposed: The Rise of Frauds and Scams on Matrimonial Websites

The rise of matrimonial websites in recent years has made it easier for people to discover potential spouses, but it has also sparked a new wave of online fraud.  These websites have developed into a haven for online predators who prey on vulnerable people looking for love and companionship. Matrimonial websites provide a forum for people to connect with others who share their interests and backgrounds, and they are made to assist people in finding their life partners.

Nevertheless, fraudsters also use these websites to conduct a variety of frauds and scams. The “romantic scam” is one of the most popular cyber frauds perpetrated through marriage websites. This particular type of scam targets those looking for romantic relationships by having fraudsters create fake profiles on internet websites.

The scammers use fake pictures and personal information to create an illusion of a genuine relationship, by exchanging text messages, phone calls, and occasionally even video calls, they gradually win the trust of their victims. Once the victim has become a willing accomplice, the fraudsters begin to demand money under a variety of guises. They can say they are struggling financially or that they have a sick relative who needs immediate medical care. Identity theft is a common form of online fraud that uses matrimony websites.

Cybercriminals use stolen personal data to create fake profiles in this type of fraud. They may use the stolen information to create many profiles on various websites, making it more difficult for their victims to detect the fraud. Cybercriminals may also conduct phishing attacks on matrimony websites. They may create fake profiles or send messages from authentic profiles requesting that their victims click a link or download a file. When a victim clicks on a link or downloads a file, malware is placed on their device, allowing attackers access to their personal information.

Although many different KYC (Know Your Customer) models and verification procedures have been used by matrimonial services to verify users, these websites still contain a large number of fake profiles. This is due to a number of factors.

Firstly, by using fake or stolen identity documents, fraudsters can get through the verification process. Despite the fact that some websites do use advanced verification methods like face recognition software, these can still be scammed using deepfakes or other cutting-edge strategies. Secondly, it is difficult to personally verify every profile on these websites because of the huge number of users. Matrimonial services have millions of users, and it might be tough to identify and remove all fraudulent profiles. Thirdly, some people make fake profiles on their own for a variety of reasons, like attention or a desire to conceal their genuine identities. Users may create several profiles using various identities, which makes it more difficult to detect fraud. Finally, there’s a chance that certain matrimony services don’t have strong security measures in place to guard against fraudulent operations.

The software and security infrastructure of the website has weaknesses that hackers and cybercriminals can use to establish fake profiles and commit other types of fraud. Although while marriage websites have incorporated numerous KYC models and verification processes, there are still a lot of fake profiles on these sites, therefore these security measures may not be perfect.

Websites must keep enhancing their infrastructure for security and employ cutting-edge technologies to spot and eliminate fraudulent activity if they are to successfully combat this issue. When using these websites, users must also exercise caution and vigilance to prevent falling victim to fraud and scams. In cases of matrimonial fraud, both men and women are the victims.

DCW sent warnings to matrimony websites in 2022 to prevent creation of fake profiles. Yet unfortunately, there are reports of matrimonial fraud using fake profiles almost every month. 16 incidences of fraud on matrimonial websites were reported in 2021, according to police figures. Officials believe that the real number is actually considerably higher because many complainants are ashamed to file a complaint.

Usually, fraudsters target older ladies and men who are eager to get married. They typically state that they are employed abroad because it is more difficult to verify such claims in such situations. A senior police official claimed that after the fraudsters discover their target, they get along with them and, after winning their trust, proceed to defraud the victim.

Police revealed two instances where Aditya alias Tanmay Mhatre, 29, pretended to be a scientist with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the US government’s civilian space programme agency, on marriage websites. According to the police, he has cheated on more than fourteen women to date. Mhatre is reluctant to meet potential brides at first, but after they insist, he agrees to do so at a five-star hotel and arrives in a chauffeur-driven car to draw in the women.

In another instance, a 32-year-old female engineer employed at a PSU fell in love with a fraudster who claimed to be based in the UK. She was informed by the man that he will marry her after returning from a fifteen-day work trip to Canada. He informed her that he was sending her a gift in the meanwhile. Thereafter, she began receiving calls from customs officers requesting her to pay import duty. The following day, she received a call asking her to pay GST and was informed that the package contained 95,000 UK pounds as a gift. She called the suspect, who informed her that he would reimburse her the entire sum as soon as he got back to India, according to a Navi Mumbai Police officer.

Similar to this, Vishal Chavan, a B.Tech. graduate who resides in Kalyan, defrauded a number of ladies by pretending to be the vice president of a multinational mobile company before being apprehended on January 19, 2022. According to the authorities, Chavan has so far conned at least 40 women. Only seven cases have been filed against him, though.

Men have also fallen prey to such financial frauds, not just women. In February 2021, Pune police arrested a group of nine women and two males who were communicating with men who were older than the traditional marriageable age. They would post pictures of attractive women, tell the potential bridegroom that she came from a poor family but was very intelligent, and ask him to pay for her jewellery. She would get married and leave with the jewellery before the honeymoon, according to cyber expert and advocate Vicky Shah.

“While dealing on matrimonial portals one should be very careful. Verifying the background of the person dealing with is very important. If possible, the prospective bride or bridegroom should also verify from the employer about the details of the person, they are interested in. Most of the matrimonial portals don’t have any system to verify the profiles which are uploaded on their portals. They don’t have proper Know Your Customer (KYC) of the people, neither do they take any responsibility as they act only as a medium. However, marriage is a sensitive issue which needs to be dealt with very carefully.”

Vicky Shah.

It is important to take steps in order to safeguard oneself from online frauds carried out via matrimonial websites. Always confirm the identity of the person with whom you are communicating, and never transfer money or personal information to someone you have not met in person. Be wary of unwanted messages or links, as well as anyone who requests money or personal information.

Finally, while matrimony websites might be an effective model to meet a life partner, they are also a popular target for cybercriminals. To protect yourself from cyber fraud, you must be vigilant and take safeguards. Remember, if something appears to be too good to be true, it most likely is.

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