A while ago I wrote an article ‘Don’t be Conned: Avoid Being Scammed Online‘. Within it I referred to a ‘Little Black Book of Scams’. This little book was produced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, affectionately known as the ACCC. I obtained a copy of this and will now add to my previous article. My first article is on avoiding online dating scammers.
The ACCC also has a scamwatch website where you can sign up for free email alerts. Basically this book and the website were created for Australians but I expect it can be used worldwide. After all scamming is worldwide and there must be many of the same or similar scams running.
People who get scammed are often those who believe that everyone is good. Unfortunately this is not the case and these people are often the ones who do get scammed.
On the other hand extreme cynics also get scammed as they usually believe that they know what is up. Then someone manages to penetrate this shield and trick them.
What I am letting you know, mind you I am probably teaching many grandmas how to suck eggs, is that anyone can be scammed.
The motto here is: learn the signals of scammers. The following should give you enough information to do this.
The Most Common Scams to Watch Out For
I am now going to expand, in a set of articles, on some of these so you can pick out individual scams a bit easier.
In this post I am going to concentrate on the common scams that aim at the heart strings. You know, the ones that appeal for help or something drastic will happen to them. Or the others (who might in fact be the same ones) who aim for the lonely hearts club.
There are a number of scams that have been around for a long time, pre-internet, but now they appear online. These appeal to those with kind hearts who strive to help others in trouble. They also appeal to the lonely.
With so many people living their lives on line, the face to face interaction between people has dropped; often dramatically. So what do they do to meet potential friends and mates? Online dating sites of course.
The Lonely Hearts Club Band (LHCB)
I know many people who have met online. In fact one good friend is now with a lovely fellow and I think they broke every rule in the online dating rule book. She is a wiz on the computer; He is a dinosaur!
A friend put him on an online dating service site. She picked him out. After a fruitless short period, where it became evident he really was a computer dinosaur and she saw he lived around the corner, she suggested they meet. They met at the local cafe, moved down to Tasmania and are now happily married in a really good partnership. By the way she does all her work online.
So they are two of the lucky people. I expect there are many others who did follow the rules and achieved happiness. But don’t count on it unless you are really careful and do as much researching as possible.
To get connected with you, in whatever manner they chose, the information will be most certainly false. In fact if an image is included they might work around meeting you. This is at least a warning sign but not necessarily so. Just be careful. In fact if you are lucky enough to know someone who can run facial recognition, try that out!
Actually there are services for searching images. Google and TinEye come to mind. I tried TinEye on their website but had no luck but if you want to read about them they are on Twitter and FaceBook but nothing is recent.
If you are unlucky enough to be taken in you might find yourself doing one or all the following:
Accept gifts meant to woo you.
1. Give your details. Not only could you become enwrapped in a romantic scam. With enough information someone could use it to impersonate you. This is a growing trend and extremely scary.
2. Meet with them. (I doubt you would be as lucky as my above friend!)
3. Send money to help him/her with various items they desperately need. Often they will be overseas. No matter where you are they will be in another country. They might ask for money to come home. Well you probably will never meet them once you send the money. So DO NOT BE FOOLED.
4. Publish anything online that could be used for blackmail.
Make sure you do lots of searches to see if you can find anything, on the internet, about the name given. It would be pleasant if you were surprised. But I don’t think that would happen
The result is that you will lose. Generally a substantial amount of money and maybe even your material items.
The LHCB Node; Where you Meet
Online isn’t the only point these fraudsters approach you. Every day I review my email. The number of boy meet girl scams (fortunately mostly in my junk mail) is enormous. But don’t do an overall deletion because your email provider might be like mine and send email addresses, that have always come to my inbox, to the junk mail. This is so annoying. I block everyone but I am sure they come back via another email address.
Then there is the phone. I get all sorts of useless text messages via my mobile and often there are a few dating ones in there. My solution – just delete the lot.
And then there is online social media. Oh boy, don’t we get enough of them without this rubbish. Generally the first approach is via my email. I get friend requests every day. First thing I do is look at the email extension. Sometimes you can immediately pick that it is off. So delete immediately!
So, you get an invitation to become their friend (note the names have been blanked to protect the innocent!). Don’t open it right up. Just click on the message to get the preview up. Do not confirm! Click on the image only.
This way you go to their FB without agreeing to become their friend. Then check around. See if any information comes up. The first page that opens is the timeline. Have a look at what is there. Often I find inappropriate posts. These never get accepted.
In my example, there are only two comments. As I belong to a wonderful group called Wealthy Affiliate (WA), and these two are mutual friends, I can check them out. But even so, often people are so busy they just ‘friend’ anyway. This person will get a Message from me, most likely asking if he is a WA member. I then go and find them and read their profile. No WA profile and their friend request is denied.
If there is a bit of information, but it’s not very informative, click on the image and take a look at the About folder. Nothing there, and it is an unfamiliar email extension, then get rid of it. It’s a great idea to be careful and not take chances.
If you get a request with one of those anonymous images, make sure you don’t accept it until you have checked it out.
Sometimes the person will check out a bit. With these I Message them and ask for some information about them. Then I check that out.
When we do have mutual friends I open my Friends tab, take a look at the mutual friends and then go to Friend Requests and either confirm or delete it.
It sounds like a very convoluted means of ascertaining if the person is a valid friend but it’s better to take some time so do this so you don’t get scammed in the future.
When you do this you remove many potential problems including romantic predators who only want your money.
What you can do to Protect Yourself and Find Help
I have given you the above advice to be wary of the unknown and search out information to make sure you are as safe as you can be. I will also suggest you maintain your security on whatever platform you are using. (I have to remind myself to do this as I am pretty trusting. Fortunately I am also a cynic and reasonably aware.)
If you have any doubts at all the validity of your communication don’t proceed. I do suggest you visit the ACCC’s Little Black Book of Scams. Even if you are not in Australia, this gives great guidelines.
Also familiarise yourself with the anti-scam policies of your country’s government.
I do hope I have given you a good grounding in noticing romantic scams. It’s sad to think in addition to romantic scams, there as so many other scams out there and the predators that can make people’s live a misery.
The group I mentioned above has many members that seek out information on many types of scams. You might like to read about this group. It might be for you.