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Sugar Daddy Scams: Warning Signs on Instagram, Venmo, and CashApp

Sugar Daddy Scams: Warning Signs on Instagram, Venmo, and CashApp

It could start as an innocent offer to send some money in exchange for a simple photo. In reality, scammers are pretending to be wealthy individuals and scamming young, unsuspecting victims with a sugar daddy scam. 

These scammers lure people in with the promise of money or financial benefits, but they may attempt to steal personal information from them. According to the Better Business Bureau, online romance scams are on the rise after the pandemic and have resulted in nearly a billion dollars in losses over the last three years. 

With the median amount of money lost per scam totaling $2,500, we’re not talking about small sums of money. As these scams become more prevalent, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself and be aware of the warning signs of a scam on popular sites like Instagram, Venmo and CashApp. 

Let’s discuss what these sugar daddy scams typically involve and how to stay vigilant to safeguard yourself or someone you care about.

What Is a Sugar Daddy?

The concept of a “sugar daddy” has grown in the last decade or so as social media has become more popular. A sugar daddy is traditionally an older man who offers a financial incentive, whether money, paying bills, or gifts, in exchange for a younger individual providing something. 

It could be explicit photos, companionship, or some other communication, but the exchange of money from an older individual to a younger one is how a typical sugar daddy operates. Sugar-baby relationships are somewhat different from typical online scams since legitimate ones can be mutually beneficial as long as both parties are happy and getting what they want out of it. 

However, many of these exchanges lure unsuspecting young people desperate for money or who need help financially. The result is an exploitative relationship that takes advantage of young, unsuspecting individuals. 

How Do Sugar Daddy Scams Work?

Like several other cybercriminal activities, there is a tried-and-true pattern that sugar daddy scams follow. If you can identify a suspicious message or individual before it’s too late, you can avoid consequences like financial loss, blackmail, or other cybercrimes.

At Digital Forensics, we understand how these scams work and can help you navigate and identify when a romantic relationship online might be taken too far through a scam. 

A common pattern of the sugar daddy scam includes: 

The initial outreach

A sugar daddy scam often starts with a direct message or friend request through a social media platform like Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, or others. These scammers will often target young adults who have public profiles or look like they might need some financial help. 

With a little woo-ing and flirting, they will tout their wealth and could potentially offer up financial gifts or payment to the young adult. 

Building a relationship

As the scammer begins to establish a relationship with the young adult, they’ll start to slowly introduce the idea of a “sugar daddy” relationship. The requests could range from explicit photos to simple conversations on the phone or exchanging messages in exchange for regular money or gifts. 

Luring in the victim

Once the young adult starts to warm up to the idea of a sugar daddy relationship, the scammer will ask for bank account details or Venmo and CashApp information. They could use a phishing link to capture your information or have you send personal banking information that can later be used to steal your identity or access your account. 

Taking the money

As soon as financial information is collected from the scammer, they can begin to drain money from your accounts or steal your personal information and identity to access accounts and more. Even if you don’t send your entire bank account number or login information, with enough information a sugar daddy scammer can wreak havoc on your identity.

These sugar daddy scams prey on vulnerable victims who can genuinely believe they will receive financial money or that the sugar daddy is developing real romantic feelings for them, only to be let down and left vulnerable to a cybercriminal. 

What Are the Warning Signs of a Sugar Daddy Scam?

Even if you think you can point out the signs of a sugar daddy scam, understanding the red flags associated can ensure you don’t fall victim to anyone who reaches out or expresses interest in you romantically online. 

Some signs that you could be communicating with a scammer include: 

  • Unsolicited messages from a stranger: If someone slides into your inbox that you’re not familiar with or you have no mutual friends with, you should have your guard up. This is especially important if they start offering money or gifts.
  • The “too good to be true” rule: If someone you don’t know is offering large amounts of money for very little, you should ask yourself if it seems too good to be true. By pausing to judge any financial offers, you can prevent yourself from agreeing to something that is actually highly unlikely. 
  • Suspicious profiles: Does the person you’re messaging with have only a few photos or a handful of friends? Scammers will often use fake profiles that aren’t fully built out or in-depth. If you notice their profile is sparse or lacking basic information, you might be messaging with a scammer. 
  • High-pressure tactics: If someone is pressuring you intensely to provide them with personal information or comply with their request, you should take a step back and consider their motives and what they might be rushing you for.  

By keeping alert and aware of your interactions online, you can ensure you avoid a sugar daddy scam and instead spend your energy interacting with legitimate accounts that you actually know. 

How Can You Protect Yourself From Sugar Daddy Scams?

Knowing how to keep yourself safe online from sugar daddy scams can keep your financial information protected and ensure you don’t fall victim to a cybercriminal. 

To protect yourself from a sugar daddy scam, keep these tips in mind: 

  • Avoid requests for personal information: Whether it’s basic information like an email address or phone number or something more invasive like banking information, you should never provide your personal information to a stranger online. 
  • Report suspicious activity: If you’re uncomfortable with a message or what someone is asking for you, report their profile through Instagram. Each platform has safety protocols in place to report suspicious activity.
  • Adjust privacy settings: You can prevent strangers from contacting you on these platforms by adjusting your preferences so only people you know or approve can reach out. This can help filter out unwanted messages or money requests from strangers on apps like Venmo or CashApp. 

What Can I Do If I’m a Victim of a Sugar Daddy Scam? 

Even young, internet-savvy users can fall victim to a sugar daddy scam. You are definitely not alone. Through smooth talking and the promise of financial gain, it’s not surprising that millions of dollars are lost annually to this type of romance scam every year. 

The first step if you think something suspicious might be happening is to immediately stop communicating with the individual and report them to the social media platform you’re on. You’ll want to keep a close eye on all your bank accounts and monitor any social media accounts for suspicious activity. 

It’s a good idea to regularly change your passwords to your social media profiles, emails, and bank accounts to be extra safe. Lastly, it’s important to know you don’t have to go through this alone. 

Our team at Digital Forensics can help you investigate and collect evidence and information to turn over to authorities if you’ve been a victim of a sugar daddy scam. Reach out to us on our 24/7 hotline to understand how we can help you navigate your situation. We’re here to be your partner and support you however we can. 

The bottom line

Sugar daddy scams are more common than you might think — and knowing the warning signs can help keep you safe online. Staying aware and informed is one of the best ways to avoid becoming a victim of an online romance scam tactic like a sugar daddy. 

If you or someone you know has been a victim of a sugar daddy scam, contact our team at Digital Forensics. We can help collect evidence and provide valuable information to you or authorities to ensure the perpetrator is found. 

Request help today on our 24/7 hotline to get help from a Digital Forensics team member within 10 minutes. We’re here to help. 


Online Romance Scams: A BBB Study on “How Scammers Use Impersonation, Blackmail, and Trickery to Steal from Unsuspecting Daters”

Romance scams take record dollars in 2020 | Federal Trade Commission

Abuse and Spam | Instagram Help Center

Changing Payment Privacy & Hiding Past Payments | Venmo

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