You meet an attractive stranger on a dating site. They live in your city and you hit it off right away. Soon, you’re texting with them frequently and making plans to meet in person. You’ve been lonely and isolated amid lockdowns, and this person relieves the anguish, so you seem to be spending all your time chatting with them.
What’s even better is that they’re doing great, financially. They got into the crypto investment boom at the right time and have seen their savings balloon. You really like them, so when they encourage you to take the dip together and put your own savings into crypto assets, it feels natural.
Like thousands around the world, you have been scammed.
The crypto exchange you’ve put your money in is fake, a front set up by the same scammers who created the persona of your online partner — who doesn’t exist. You can go to the authorities, but the money cannot be traced. It now makes up part of the US$14 billion estimated to have been stolen this way during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a period when social distancing became synonymous with personal and public safety, online technologies have facilitated connection with other people. In my ongoing research on how Haitian gay migrants in North America and Europe develop romantic relationships with partners in Haiti, I have seen how dating and messaging apps enable and support connections across borders.
The past few years have seen constant hype surrounding…