Have you ever been honey-trapped?

Discovering the new-normal during COVID-19. This blog is an expression of my fear or resentment.

They say you will only take action when it happens to you until then no one is bothered!! These are those rarest times in my life when I have been enforced to write down about my girls. Yes, my girls! I am an Assistant professor at a University in Delhi teaching a 2 years MA Program. Not only that I have started to provide online tuitions to a few school girls near my house during this 2020 CORONAVIRUS lockdown.

This Blog is dedicated to them for motivating me to share my grief with you all. It highlights the encumbrance faced by young girls for getting married and starting a new family. During the COVID-19 phase, this pressure has increased to a level that most of them decided to find a possible companion through some of the famous dating sites like Tinder, Bumble, or OkCupid to name a few. While their parents are hunting on some other matrimonial sites. Though, their story is just between swiping right or left- which made them caught amid of being honey-trapped. To be honest, it once happened with #metoo.

Honey Trapping- Understanding the term

For a few of you, to whom this is relatively a new term, let me describe in clearly. “Honey trapping” is the practice of luring in a naive love with an interest to take advantage of any significant other (can be either men or women). The process involves the use of romantic or sexual relationships for interpersonal or financial benefits’. It is currently one of the hottest creativities in the cybercrime domain. Within which thousands of millennials are being hoodwinked for their cash regularly in India through social media engagements. Honey trapping/love crime is a mushrooming illegal business that involves online scammers seducing young girls and boys with fake identities in a bid to fleece them of cash. As I said, it all starts with a ‘SWIPE’. These accounts have fancy pictures of some foreigners with a highly impressive Instagram profile as well. The scammer begins their conversation by expressing their love for our country India and how desperate they are to ‘marry’ an Indian girl.

Every day, the popularity of dating apps is getting higher. The popularity of a site like Bumble was made huge after an Indian celebrity Priyanka Chopra became the brand ambassador of it. Such investments and popular vibes resulted in an increased number of men and women making their accounts on different dating sites. The 3 girls I was approached by, had their accounts on bumble only being the most convenient one for women. An innocent idea of finding a perfect match for themselves during these lockdown restrictions resulted in losing out their savings and moreover their peace and safety.

One of my students 19years old explained to me that ‘once her relationship was established, she was constantly receiving threat of breakup or exposing her photos to the public platform’. Similarly, another girl mentioned ‘being a victim I had to willingly hand over what’s asked that is the little saving I had’. This is done perhaps because their sweetheart needs money for either a life-saving operation or maybe they want to buy a plane ticket to finally meet their family to fix up their marriage or whatever the reason, the requests for financial assistance were the major things asked for. Upon this, another student of mine voiced- ‘they give some random reason why they can’t talk on the phone. They also don’t want to do video calls, usually, they have an alien phone number too. This is because now I know there is no one existing like the pictures they have on their profiles. I even wonder if they are from the same gender’. I am sure reading these narratives are not new to us. But I am saddened to bring it again as nothing much has been happening to protect the well-being of such victims, the trauma encountered by them is either leading to suicidal ideations or ultimately suicide because of the heartbreaks and the constant embarrassment of being cheated.

In their conversation, some of the scammers also propose ideas of strategically collaborating for business in India and ask them to transfer money on their behalf to their agents in Indian currency, which then they promise to refund in dollars including their incredible profits. The most important thing which was shared by each of them and that resonates with my experience as well was- ‘these scammers start to express about their deep love very early before even meeting or talking on video calls’. They propose a relationship straight away, they want to get engaged/married very quickly’. Visiting India and speaking to their parents about their marriage after coronavirus is over are among some promises which were made to them’.

Is this not most single girls are looking for ‘commitment’. They promise to give you everything you can imagine and take your expectations to the next level a lot faster than normal- Be Alert!!!

Possible Changes and Solution

You never get to know who is behind the screen. Be aware and Be alert! The Corona times are tough!

As online modern-day- dating has become an accepted practice in our country too, as most of us find it easy and overwhelming than traditional dating. These sites allow us to swipe profiles based on our choices further the rapport is made without any awkward social engagements. Ultimately making this an ideal hunting ground for cyber crooks for making quick and easy money without any investment.

However, I have been writing to almost all these dating sites, sending emails, etc. Reporting of the fake IDs with the help of my girls is a continuous battle we are fighting. This blog is an attempt to make the developers and owners of these dating sites realize their roles and responsibilities in ensuring the safety of their clients. I have been asked through emails about how we can do that. I am honestly clueless because of the cybersecurity that’s not my forte!!! What best I can do as your client I am doing, as I am quite sure that the development of such a dating app consumes a lot of time, money, and effort; therefore, it is very much essential to follow different ways to monitor it as well. Stronger Monitoring and security system need to be the priority of every kind of dating site owner. Scanning the profiles is your job because when these young people are trapped into a fraud, they failed to receive any support from them forget about empathy.

Currently, I am involved and working with a group of 10 girls orienting and counseling them to come over through their recent traumatic experience. I have even spoken to the airport authorities Bombay and Delhi and I was appraised but not helped for taking such major steps of stopping these girls from being forge. After a holistic securitized process, another possible solution can be which I can think of as a counselor myself is — ‘providing personalized counseling’ on request which is free of charge. I have done an in-depth literature review of how money-making is done through an online dating site. Undoubtedly, the owners and developers are making a lot of money than we can imagine! So, I strongly encourage this kind of service to be available for free to these millennials (18–24years) of this nation.

As they are the easiest prey of such scams they are even shy to approach a person of the opposite sex. They are not confident enough to express their feelings and communicate with the other person. To help them enjoy dates with their match and have a stress-free experience, dating apps can provide them with different tips and strategies to talk to the other person and signs they need to be careful about. The counselor can provide some well-being exercise and strategies to identify the fake profile and avoid them from getting into trap. If there is any existing or new traumatic young adult then, having the same counselor on board can provide them a personalizing one-on-one video coaching session. For providing these kinds of services, you can charge a nominal fee per session.

And the end, these dating apps especially Bumble is still my most favorite and liked by people around. These apps are the easiest dating mechanism for most of us during this Lockdown situation and otherwise to meet a decent match. I am more eager to collaborate and work on some immediate solutions to help these young strugglers find peace in this lost world.

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Ikanshi Khanna

Ikanshi Khanna

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