Looking for love online has become the new-age norm in our digitally connected world, but unfortunately, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. There's a sinister trend that's on the rise: online dating scams. What began as a hopeful journey to find love, companionship, or connection has turned into a perilous game, with victims falling prey to heartless scammers. Recent revelations from journalist Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj shed light on the harrowing reality of dating app scams in India, bringing attention to cases that not only drain finances but also pose serious threats to one's physical and mental well-being.
The haunting story shared by Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj, a seasoned journalist, during a conversation with Raj Shamani, serves as a stark reminder of the chilling reality that unfolds on dating apps. In the Gurgaon case, she investigated how a woman working in an MNC, alongside her male partner, duped men through online dating scams. The modus operandi involved spending a night with the survivors and filing rape accusations the next day. This manipulation of the legal system not only jeopardizes the lives of innocent men but also undermines the severity of real crimes. The fear instilled by such cases has led to a disturbing trend where individuals contemplate drastic measures due to the looming threat of false accusations.
In a recent case, Krishanu Acharyya was held by Chandigarh Police for being involved in a dating app scam. Acharyya was accused of sending messages to over 500 contacts via a bulk SMS machine. Reportedly, Acharyya had employed multiple women to lure people and keep them engaged in seductive talks. The women were paid money to lure the customers to get them to deposit money in accounts which were all owned by Acharyya.
Dark Web Of Online Dating Scams
The issue of false accusations made by women against men, particularly in the context of serious crimes like rape, is a matter of great concern. In some cases, accused women may misuse the legal system to falsely implicate men, tarnishing their reputations and causing irreparable harm to their lives. This not only undermines the integrity of the legal process but also perpetuates a climate of fear and mistrust between men and women. Therefore, it is imperative to adopt a nuanced approach towards gender-related crimes that prioritizes fair and just legal processes. The cases that have been highlighted in this regard demonstrate the need for greater sensitivity, awareness, and a nuanced approach to gender-related crimes, emphasizing the importance of fair and just legal processes.
The Jaipur Tragedy
In another incident from 2018, a 28-year-old businessman fell victim to a ruthless trio he met on Tinder. The accused, led by Priya Seth, lured the victim into a trap, demanding a ransom from his family. When the ransom wasn't paid, they killed him, dismembered his body, and dumped it on a Delhi road. Recently, the court sentenced three individuals under sections 342 (wrongful confinement), 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
The court's verdict, though just, cannot undo the trauma inflicted on the victim's family and raises questions about the safety of online connections.
Tales Of Deception From Delhi To Pune
The heart of India, pulsating with the promise of romance, has become a breeding ground for a different kind of love story—one tainted by deceit and financial exploitation where unsuspecting individuals fall prey to a web of scams, leaving hearts broken and wallets lighter. A Twitter user shared his ordeal on X, revealing a "new scam" after a date with a girl from a dating app cost him over ₹15,000. His detailed posts exposed an inflated bill at a Delhi restaurant, unravelling a disturbing trend.
A 25-year-old Delhi man, ensnared by a woman on Bumble, faced a ₹15,886 bar bill due to alleged card machine issues. His shock deepened when the bill disappeared in the washroom break, accompanied by the woman's sudden vanishing act on Bumble, echoing a prevalent scam.
This is an incredible new scam running in New Delhi!— Aditya Mani Jha (@aditya_mani_jha) November 11, 2023
1. The Race Lounge and Bar in Rajouri hires young women to reel in young men over Tinder/Bumble
2. Woman insists on going to Race Lounge for the date
3. Orders 2-3drinks, the Race Lounge then charges them 15-20,000 rupees. https://t.co/RqlfjmuLtP
A thread on X illuminated Delhi's scamming nexus, with users cautioning against specific bars in Rajouri Garden. Stories emerged of exorbitant bills, like a Pune resident's ₹22,000 ordeal, including a ₹10,000 hukkah, ₹15,000 wine bottle, and a ₹1,500 wine glass, ending in threats of violence.
PUNE : ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST— Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj (@DeepikaBhardwaj) November 11, 2023
Guy matches girl on @bumble
She asks to meet within 2 days
Chooses Gypsy Moto Pub specifically
Orders hukka wine immediately
Guy slapped with Rs. 23K bill
Girl threatens either he pays or be beaten up & his family involved @PuneCityPolice pic.twitter.com/d4dlLNYYb9
These stories of deception extend beyond cities. Bengaluru witnessed a woman losing ₹4.5 lakh to a Tinder acquaintance, while an Ahmedabad techie's plunge into Bitcoin at a woman's suggestion led to a ₹1 crore loss.
The Terrifying Statistics
Online dating scams have transcended the boundaries of financial losses. The emotional toll on survivors is immeasurable, with stories emerging of individuals who have lost faith in their quest for love.
Research indicates that a staggering 66% of Indian adults have fallen victim to online dating scams, with an average loss of Rs 7,966 per victim. Norton's findings reveal the financial toll on victims, but the emotional impact is equally profound. A whopping 76% of adults who used dating apps in India reported cutting short interactions due to unsettling discoveries about their potential partners, ranging from disturbing online pictures to lies about personal details.
The fear of being deceived by fraudsters has left many paralyzed, with 34% of respondents admitting to being afraid of using dating apps while 43% express a general lack of trust in people using these platforms. The human toll is evident in the reported loss of $1.3 billion to romance scams in the United States in 2022 alone. With 70,000 reported cases, the median loss of $4,400 emphasizes the scale of the issue.
The psychological trauma inflicted on those who have fallen victim to scams goes beyond monetary losses, affecting their ability to trust and engage in future relationships.
Law Enforcement Complicity: A Question Of Accountability
Perhaps even more alarming is the involvement of law enforcement in some of these scams, as revealed by the Gurugram case. The shock extends beyond the perpetrators, as instances of law enforcement involvement in these scams have come to light. This raises critical questions about both the accountability of those entrusted with upholding justice and the misuse of the digital realm. How can the public trust a system when those within it become complicit in exploiting innocent individuals? It is imperative to scrutinize and reform the systems in place to ensure that those responsible, irrespective of their gender, for maintaining order are held to the highest standards of integrity.
Views expressed are the author's own.