KOCHI : Manoj (name changed) was excited when his basic profile on the Kerala Matrimony website received interest from a 28-year-old woman in Pathanamthitta. The purportedly genuine account had approved his connection request and had viewed his profile multiple times. However, no phone number was shared.
Access to contact details on the website requires a paid membership, besides the express approval of account holders. But, since Manoj needed just that one account’s phone number, he opted for a workaround. He contacted a marriage broker, who he knew operated a premium membership on the website (apparently, there are many brokers who register on such sites illegally to get contact details of prospective clients), who would try to access the phone number of the desired account, by sending a request of one’s own.
After Manoj’s multi-pronged attempt to contact the account holder proved futile, he decided to invest in a three-month premium membership, which cost him Rs 4,000. This would have got him the contact details he so desired. However, to Manoj’s dismay, the mobile number listed with the profile turned out to be inactive. Even attempts to communicate via chat also failed to yield results. Most shockingly, the profile was deleted within a few days, leaving him perplexed and frustrated.
“I was surprised when the account accepted my request. But it took me a few days to realise that it was a fake account created by the online matrimonial company itself to loot money,” said Manoj, who works in the private sector.
Vivek S had a similar ordeal on another matchmaking platform. “I received a request from the supposed account of a 27-year-old woman. First impressions were promising, and I decided to obtain the contact number. I upgraded my account, which cost me Rs 3,900, only to realise immediately that I had been duped. The account vanished within a day, and the number was inaccessible. After hearing the experience of others, I now realise that mine was not an isolated incident,” the Palakkad native said.
Despite this trap claiming numerous victims, many are hesitant to file complaints due to the stigma attached.
“Several profiles on matrimonial websites are fake, aimed at enticing users to purchase premium memberships and boosting their revenue. These are all company-operated profiles. If your account receives interest from another, chances are over 90% that it’s a fake profile. Having closely observed the activity, I can confidently say it’s a scam,” says Vipin, a broker active on such platforms.
Jiyas Jamal, a cyber lawyer and founder of Kochi-based NGO Cyber Suraksha Foundation, says both men and women fall victim to fraudulent practices. “Recently, a woman in Kochi lost Rs 3.75 crore after connecting with a man through a matrimony app. While the entire operation may not be a scam, certain companies have trained staff to lure individuals into opting for their paid schemes. The associated stigma often prevents victims from reporting such cases to police. A thorough investigation is imperative to uncover the orchestrated scam of these matchmaking apps,” said Jiyas.
Shockingly, there has been a noticeable increase in profiles from countries like the United Kingdom, Cambodia, Canada, and Ireland, indicating that fraudsters have expanded their operations to these platforms.
“Undoubtedly, there are fake profiles orchestrated by matrimony apps to boost visibility and revenue. Criminal syndicates also exploit these apps to deceive and extort money from unsuspecting users. By analysing profiles, we can discern those created in Cambodia, UK, USA, among others. Fraudsters often use images from company websites, frequently targeting professionals, including doctors,” said Jince T Thomas, assistant commander of Kerala police’s Cyberdome.
Despite attempts to contact companies operating matchmaking websites and apps on the issue, TNIE received no comments.
Certain companies have trained staff to lure individuals into opting for their paid schemes. Fraudsters often use images from company websites, frequently targeting professionals, including doctors.
Fake profiles are orchestrated by matrimony apps to boost visibility and revenue. Criminal syndicates also exploit these apps to deceive and extort money from users
There has been a noticeable increase in profiles from countries like the United Kingdom, Cambodia, Canada, and Ireland, indicating that fraudsters have expanded
Identify scamsters on matrimonial sites
Often fake profiles are those:
With conflicting information on the description
With no involvement of family members
With no profile on social media
With unverified profiles
Those whose number is not reachable or switched off
With single photo
Which do not provide crucial information
Those who accept requests quickly
Who prefer texting over talking
Unwilling to share family members’ contact number
That quickly agree to all terms and conditions
Who seek money citing someone in their immediate family is ill