OPW INTERVIEW -- Oct 8 -- I interviewed Hannah Schwartz, CEO of RSVP in Australia, on the subject of scamming. - Mark Brooks
What kind of scamming have you encountered in the past on RSVP?
We've seen two types of scamming. The first tries to take advantage of a potentially lonely person. I think we tend to call that the Nigerian scam. We also see a lot of scams originating from Africa. It usually involves a network of people abroad putting up fake profiles. The profiles are usually of women who court the men and pretend great interest. They talk of a life of wanting to move to Australia and plan to come visit, but at the last minute they unfortunately can't make it. They email the prospect and say their brother-in-law couldn't get the ticket. "Can you wire the money instead?" Women and men are just as likely to be the target of these scams and what we see is that trust (via email and phone) is built over 3-6 months before the request for money comes into play.
Another type of scam we get involves our hybrid payment plan, where you pay as you go. We've received attempts to scam the model by buying large numbers of the stamps upfront. We now have triggers in place that tell us if a certain level of purchase has happened. We search the IP address of where the purchase originated and have even gone so far as to not allow credit cards that are foreign issues.
Is there anything else you do to try to beat the scammers?
We've spent a lot of time on our site educating our members about these types of scams, but we're not done. We have to constantly educate our users, as well as innovate our back-end systems. We work very closely with authorities, when appropriate. But we also have our own protocols in place where we know some of the telltale signs and bring down suspicious profiles before scammers can make contact with our members. We work very closely with the payment processors who keep master lists of bogus credit cards. We maintain records of anybody we've deemed criminal or suspect and have instituted a warning system when such persons return to the site.
It sounds like you've found a way to catch scammers pre-signup?
Every profile that goes up on our site does not go live instantly. It is proofed by us first. So, you can join up but that doesn't mean we'll bring you live. In essence, we prevent scammers from becoming viewable to the public.
In general, have you seen the number of scamming incidents or scamming attempts increase or decrease?
I would say scamming has leveled. I don't think we've seen any indication that it's on the rise. I think there is just a steady trickle and because we've put in more and more controls, we actually are getting smarter at preventing it.
How would you like to encourage the Internet dating industry to work together to combat scamming?
It would be terrific if, in the future, the dating industry had a master suspect list that included IP addresses. It would be great if we could share that, as well as develop a means of communicating with each other quickly when new scams crop up. There are security programs out there, like McAfee, that post the latest types of viruses and spyware. It would be terrific if we had something similar – a central place where scams are posted.