Over $20million of romance scams were reported through the ACCC website Scam Watch in 2017 – although this is the reported losses the figure is not a true indicator and merely the tip of the iceberg. World wide, these scams represent billions of $$$ and often victims are too ashamed and embarrassed to to come forward and share their loss, humiliation and broken heart, leaving the cyber crimes to manifest and become even more proficient.
In the US, romance scams account for the highest financial losses of all internet coordinated crimes. Reported losses of $230mil with estimates only about 15% of these crimes are even reported. It’s time for the unsuspecting lonely heart to sharpen their wits and awareness before more Australians follow suit and fall victim to the highly orchestrated love con.
In 2018, we are somewhat educated to the possibility of scammers being a reality within the online dating world. Whether you register with an online dating site or app, you have your wits about you. Little do most people realise but it’s becoming safer to be on an online dating site than it is to be on social media!
Romance Cyber-fraud targets people in every social forum from Facebook, Instagram, Messenger apps, LinkedIn or email. In fact, the shocking facts are that social media has overtaken online dating sites becoming the most common way for romance scammers to connect with their prey. With a reported 30% increase from 2016, Scam Watch figures saw a whopping, $9.7mil lost in social media romance scams throughout 2017.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
Although different apps will attract a slightly different entry point the format is very similar, you will either receive a ‘Friend Request’ or message request. Like many self-aware and intelligent people, you check the profile which always looks almost too good to be true. The men may be presented as doctors, surgeons, working in high end construction, CEOs, pilots or decorated soldiers and other military workers. women – they pose as teachers, nurses, mature aged students with a child, or women in caring based jobs. Neither sex will necessarily be above average in looks some may be super good looking but typically just the girl next door, wholesome and pretty or for the men either handsome, fit, well groomed and masculine. No matter what the looks the men almost always present as men of financial means and worth. The photos are normally high quality and paint a picture.
Once you accept the friend or message request, you will hear from the predator within normally 1-5 hours (it can take longer but not more than 1-2 days). You will receive a thank you, a compliment and simultaneously a question or 2. If they connect through Facebook you’ll wonder why they ask what country you are from when the information is already there!
SCAM AWARENESS 101
The message dialogue will be something like….
Scammers ‘innocently’ connect with you, telling you they were ‘looking for an old friend or schoolmate’ and came across your page/profile and instantly felt ‘drawn to you’. Their Facebook/instagram/LinkedIn profile might look legitimate, they don’t necessarily know you’re single so your guard is down.
What each individual scammer wants may be different but ultimately they will take anything they can get. Your identity, photos, videos, words, heart and money – they really have no limits. What you must be aware of is scammers have NO boundaries.
As soon as you engage there will be heartfelt emotionally targeted story. Women are the easier targets as they are more compassionate and empathetic by nature. It’s very common for the scammer to pose as a widower or widow with a tragic tale, how it’s just them and they’re only child, the wife died during childbirth Or was killed in a car accident or the husband had been killed fighting a peace mission or war somewhere or again in a tragic accident. There are also many stories of being lonely and in war torn areas such as Afghanistan posted there by the government waiting to return to their life. You are the only thing keeping them going.
Most often there will be links to the country you are in for example my mother was Australian and my father a foreigner I spent several years growing up in Australia then moved back overseas. There may be claims of being educated or studying.
It’s sometimes hard to spot a scammer until you start making links. What part of the story both visual or written has holes? These self proclaimed educated Westerners suddenly have poor grammar commonly the i’s are in lowercase not Capitals and overtime there are repeated questions or stories.
Scammers are commonly more than one person taking over the shift from the next, most communications are scripted and they will spend weeks months and years building trust and creating deeper feelings. Even though you might call them up on their little mistakes they always have an excuse.
Women above 45 are more likely to be targeted especially those who are most vulnerable going through separation, divorce, death loss of job etc.
THE POINT OF NO RETURN
How does a seemingly intelligent person fall for a scam. The Perpetrator holds all the cards they send messages targeted to keep the victim invested. They select carefully chosen content from what the victim shares on social media. Psychologically manipulated reading premeditated messages, read over and over the victim becomes even more attached as the predator plays the role and throws out the bait. Words create a deep and stronger connection even more so than physical relationships. They present themselves as the perfect mate therefore the feeling of attachment is intensified. As the trust and intimacy build so does the desire to want to build a future and the point of no return is reached even though your head may suspect your heart is too far gone.
BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE
Think of the following as your insurance policy to minimise the risk:
- Look out for the signs. Random contact of a personal nature rarely have any benefit
- Listen to your gut you know when something doesn’t feel right
- Always link the discrepancies together
- Do not ever and I mean ever send nude photos or enter into live cam recordings FaceTime recorded videos Snapchat etc of you masturbating or performing sexual acts these can be used to blackmail you and on so as identity fraud
- Do not give your phone number or address to someone you don’t know
- Do not agree to share your bank account details even if it’s for a deposit you could find yourself involved in fraudulent acts and money laundering
- An all time no brainer no matter what do not send money to anyone you don’t know
- Report report report! Help shutdown scammers. If anything looks suspicious either report it directly to Facebook or the social media app you are using. If you suspect anything unfriend and delete immediately before your heart becomes involved. Anyone you have not met is a fantasy no more no less, Prince Charming and Snow White do not exist.
Don’t ever give up on finding love and happiness but always keep yourself safe. Use reputable online dating sites, local social groups, matchmakers who take the time to screen and ID check everyone, dating agencies and speed dating. Spend your time and money the safe way investing into your ‘insurance policy’ of not being ripped off scammed and left brokenhearted with your trust shredded.
Until next week.