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AVG Signal Blog Security Scams Sugar Daddy & Sugar Baby Scams: How to Spot a Fake One
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Written by Molly Ebert
Published on May 13, 2024

What is a sugar daddy scam?

A sugar daddy scam is a form of social engineering that involves a scammer posing as a wealthy individual promising lavish gifts, exciting trips, or other perks in exchange for affection. The goal of the scam is to manipulate someone into giving away money or personal information. The fake sugar daddy often contacts their victim on social media, looking for a vulnerable target whose trust they can exploit.

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    Who is a sugar daddy?

    A sugar daddy is a wealthy older man looking for companionship or a pseudo-dating relationship with a younger woman — or sugar baby — in exchange for money or gifts. Through set boundaries and rules, a mutually beneficial relationship (called sugar dating) can happen between two consenting adults.

    Signs that you’re being scammed

    Avoid falling for sugar daddy scams on Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media by spotting these common signs of a sugar daddy scam:

    • A fake profile: The profile looks very new with only a few photos and a few followers. It has little or no information about the supposed sugar daddy and photos that look like generic stock photos. If you do a search, you may find they don’t have a profile on any other major social media platforms, or their other profiles have very different information about them.

    • Poor message quality: The messages you receive are full of typos, sound like a sales pitch promising a lot for very little in return, and may overuse emojis.

    • Requests to move the conversation elsewhere: The fake sugar daddy will quickly try to move the conversation to a more secure messaging platform like WhatsApp, Signal, or Telegram. These platforms have end-to-end encryption, which means it’s harder to trace the messages.

    • Unwillingness to video chat: The sugar daddy scammer will give a lot of excuses why he can’t video chat or meet you in person. They range from emotional reasons such as insecurity about his physical appearance to logistical issues such as being too busy with work. A classic excuse is every time you’re about to video call he conveniently has technical difficulties.

    • Personal info requests: A fake daddy will give many excuses as to why you need to give him your personal information — often that he wants to add you to payroll or send you gifts. This type of phishing can lead to other scams using your personal data or even identity theft.

    • Financial requests: His messages become pushy or even aggressive. The fake sugar daddy wants you to send him money now. Asking for money under any pretense is a huge red flag. A real sugar daddy will never ask you for money. Period.

    How does a sugar daddy scam work?

    First, the fake sugar daddy reaches out to someone on social media offering money in return for companionship. Then the scammer manipulates the victim out of money or personal information before vanishing.

    Let’s look at the classic sugar daddy scam format from beginning to end.

    1. The scammer finds their victim on social media.
      This is typically done via Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, or Facebook.

    2. They initiate contact through direct messages.
      The scammer will start with extreme flirting and compliments, and then move on to sharing a sad story about how lonely they feel. These are tactics used to build a connection with the victim. Gaining the victim’s trust is key for the scam to work.

    3. The fake sugar daddy moves the conversation.
      They convince their victim to move the conversation to a texting platform such as WhatsApp, Signal, or even regular mobile texting.

    4. They start making requests of their victim.
      Requests can be for various things like money or gift cards as proof of loyalty, banking information under the guise of sending a direct deposit, or basic personal information linked to the victim’s payment platform of choice. Venmo, Zelle, and CashApp are popular.

    5. The fake sugar daddy disappears.
      Once the scammer gets what they want from the victim, they vanish. All possible avenues of contact won’t work anymore, and the victim is left dealing with the consequences.

    To avoid sugar daddy scams, best practice suggests participating in these relationships only through legitimate sugar dating sites. Keep reading to learn more about signs you’re being approached by a sugar daddy scammer.

     An illustration showing how a sugar daddy scam works, from beginning to end.A sugar daddy scam often starts on social media and ends with the scammer disappearing.

    Common methods of sugar daddy scams

    Asking a victim for money in advance is a common method used to start a sugar daddy scam. It seems silly, because why would anyone give money to a stranger online? But remember these scammers are often professionals experienced in the art of pretexting to manipulate a victim into making choices they otherwise wouldn’t.

    Avoid these common scam methods used by fake sugar daddies:

    Instagram

    Sugar daddy scams on Instagram and other social media platforms are surprisingly common. Of the reports from January-June 2023, romance scams made up 14% of the total reported financial losses. That’s because fake sugar daddies can quickly make a fake profile and start messaging potential victims to try and lure them in.

    Remember, there are sites dedicated to sugar dating so a legitimate daddy or baby using Instagram is unlikely. If a sugar daddy or sugar baby approaches you on Instagram, they’re probably fake.

     Instagram screenshot of a direct message from a sugar daddy scammer.

    Snapchat

    A Snapchat account, like Instagram, is quick and easy to set up. So it’s another popular place for sugar daddy and sugar baby scams. Snapchat has the added appeal of photos and messages “disappearing” after they’re sent, which can create a false sense of security for victims. A victim may be manipulated into sending a personal photo of themselves to a fake daddy. The scammer can then take a screenshot of the photo before it disappears and later use it as leverage against the victim.

    Venmo, CashApp, and Zelle scams

    A sugar daddy can use Venmo to scam you or other popular payment platforms like CashApp and Zelle. Like other types of romance scams, fake sugar daddies can create an urgent reason why they need some quick cash — which, of course, they promise to pay back asap. The fake sugar daddy disappears and the victim is out of the money they sent.

    It’s also a good idea to ensure your logins for these payment apps are secured with strong, unique passwords. A long-game sugar daddy scam may result in you inadvertently giving away private information that can be used to hack your passwords, such as your pet’s name, your sister’s birthday, and more.

    PayPal scams

    Sugar daddy scams with PayPal use the “pending transaction” method. It’s common practice for PayPal to keep a transaction pending while it’s reviewed for approval. Fake sugar daddies can send a screenshot of a pending transaction in hopes that it doesn’t raise any red flags for the victim. The scammer flips the situation by requesting a smaller amount of money from the victim to prove they’re real and loyal. The scammer then cancels the pending transaction, or more likely, the screenshot was fake to begin with. Either way, the fake daddy walks away with money and the victim is left with nothing.

    Gift cards

    Gift cards seem harmless, because we often think of them in the small amounts we give to friends and family as gifts. A sugar daddy gift card scam is when the daddy asks the victim to purchase a gift card as proof of loyalty. After all, it’s harmless to send a gift card worth $50 or even $100 when he is promising to give you thousands afterward, right? Wrong.

    Fake daddies can scam multiple victims at a time. That means all of these small scams lead to large sums of money for the fake daddy. Gift cards are especially enticing because they’re virtually impossible to track or refund. Popular gift cards requested from a scammer are Google Play, Amazon, Apple cards, or Steam cards.

    A fake sugar daddy messages his target on WhatsApp, asking for a gift card to prove their loyalty.

    Cryptocurrencies

    Cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin isn’t regulated by the government or banking institutions, making it harder to trace. A fake daddy may ask that crypto be sent via Coinbase or even over Cash App Bitcoin transfer. They will request the payment in advance as proof of loyalty or to cover fees, and then disappear once the funds are received.

    Stolen credit cards

    In this scenario, the fake daddy sends the victim money using a stolen credit card. Then the scammer asks the victim to give them money or send someone else money as a token of gratitude. Remember: A real sugar daddy will never ask for money. Once the money is deemed fraudulent, it’s taken back by the credit card company, and the victim is left feeling humiliated and with less money in their account.

    Also, if the fake daddy has access to enough of the victim’s personal information they could use it to create a credit card account in the victim’s name. It becomes a free tab they quickly run up, and then leave the victim with the bill.

    Malware

    In some cases, a victim will receive a link to what they believe is a reputable website or platform that will allow the fake daddy to pay them, but when clicked the link triggers a malware download. This type of scam can result directly in identity theft, the scammer hacking into their bank account, or the victim’s device being infected with spyware to capture personal data and be used in future scams.

    Checks

    The traditional sugar daddy check scam is when the scammer sends his victim a check in the mail that will inevitably bounce. But before this happens, he quickly asks the sugar baby to transfer a portion of the money back to him for an emergency or to send it to someone they know who needs it.

    A sugar daddy scam involving a physical check isn’t as popular anymore. But, this is still a viable way for a fake daddy to scam money. This scam can also be done with e-checks or mobile check deposits, so always make sure your daddy is real and never send them money.

    How to check your sugar daddy is authentic

    To figure out if a sugar daddy is authentic, review his behavior for any signs of deceit we mentioned above. Also, don’t ignore your own intuition. If you feel like something isn’t right, then end the interaction. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

    Below are some signs you’re interacting with a legit Sugar Daddy:

    • He doesn’t ask you for money or gift cards.

    • He doesn’t ask you for any personal information, such as your credit card info.

    • He doesn’t ask you to send someone else money or donate money to charity.

    • He doesn’t try to move the conversation to another messaging platform.

    • He is happy to Facetime or video call with you.

    • He is amenable to meeting in a public place.

    • He doesn’t push the boundaries or rules of your relationship.

    Receiving money from a sugar daddy via a payment platform, like PayPal, is the safest option. You don’t have to give out your personal information, you just need an email — one designated for your sugar baby payments is safest.

    I’ve been scammed, what do I do?

    If you realize you’ve been scammed by a fake sugar daddy, report the scam to the social media network you used, and your local police who can guide you on whether you should report it further. Try to gather as much documented evidence as you can — photos, screenshots of messages, emails etc. — it all serves to help authorities catch the scammer and protect others from the same fate.

    Report a sugar daddy scam to the social media platform and local police.

    If the fake sugar daddy defrauded you financially, contact your bank and credit card companies as soon as possible. They may be able to freeze your accounts and cancel your cards to protect you from further fraud. Then, change all of your passwords and replace them with strong, unique passwords for future protection. If they’ve stolen your identity, learn how to report identity theft to the relevant authorities.

    And remember, this may feel embarrassing but you’re not the first person to fall victim to scamming. The most important thing is to take action once you realize you’ve been scammed.

    How do I stop being scammed?

    To give yourself some peace from scammers, start by setting all of your social media profiles to private. Being scammed once can often open a floodgate of fake sugar daddies and other scammers contacting you on Instagram or other social media platforms. Don’t engage with any messages from strangers, especially if they’re offering free gifts, an allowance, or other financial incentives.

    How active are you online? Consider how much you share about yourself. Is it possible you’re an oversharer online? If so, cut back on the posting, and definitely don’t share details like your routine or location. Double-check your accounts and consider changing who has access to your information by making your accounts private. Often we opt to “set it and forget it” and don’t realize how many people can see what we’re sharing.

    Protect against scams with online security software

    Social media can be fun and exciting, but it’s good to take precautions to help keep yourself safer from fake sugar daddies and other scammers. AVG AntiVirus Free can detect malicious threats on your devices and help protect your email from phishing scams. While it can’t stop sugar daddies from contacting you, you now know what to do if they reach out. And with AVG AntiVirus Free by your side, your device is more secure too.

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    Molly Ebert
    13-05-2024