Recently, there has been an increasing number of news reports about online dating scammers who use fake profiles to deprive their victims of huge sums of money and, in extreme cases, of high-value real estate. How not to get tricked by internet scammers?
It might seem that the victims of internet scammers are mainly younger internet users. However, another vulnerable category is seniors, whose trust is gained by scammers on dating sites and social networks.
At first glance, everything looks idyllic. The user comes across an interesting counterpart on the Internet, whether it is a chat room, a social network, or an advert on an Internet dating site. After exchanging messages or emails, phone calls are made, perhaps with the promise of a meeting soon. Gradually the scammer gains trust, appearing trustworthy, but eventually begins to point out a personal problem.
This can often be a health problem, a problem with a relative, a need to pay a sum of money, a request for airfare, etc. Often there is a touching story in the background to reassure the victim that the prospective ‘partner’ is in a really difficult situation.
Initially, the attacker repeatedly extorts small amounts of money, but later their demands may escalate. In the extreme case, he or she will then force his victim to take out a loan and contribute the money he or she has borrowed to the scammer.
But how to detect such internet scammers?
Indicator number one – a fraudulent photo
As a rule, the attacker never uses his or her own profile photo, so the first indicator is a profile photo that he may have downloaded from another user’s profile or elsewhere on the Internet. Look carefully at everything in the photos. Is there a different type of electrical outlet in the background of the photo that was supposedly taken in your country? Do the books in the library in the background have titles in a different language or alphabet? The scammer will certainly have an explanation for such clues, but they should certainly arouse suspicion.
If the attacker last week claimed to have piercing blue eyes, but the person in the photo has brown eyes, you should also be wary.
The next step is to use reverse photo search – for example, right-clicking on a profile photo in Chrome will bring up the command “Search Google for this image”. This feature will try to search for the same or very similar images on the internet. It may then lead you to the source from which the attacker stole the photo. Less clever attackers do not hesitate to use photos of lesser-known actors, for example.
Indicator number two – the scammer doesn’t know their home city well
Many scammers will claim to live only a short distance from you. A partnership between people from Paris and New York would be somewhat complicated, so they will try to list a town near you as their residence.
If you are familiar with the place, try sometimes to direct the topic of conversation to the details of the place. If the potential scammer is uncomfortable with this and tries to change the subject, you should pay attention.
Alternatively, you can try to give some false information about the place in the conversation. If there is no theatre in the town, try mentioning that you have been to a theatre there in the past. See how they react.
Indicator number three – written expression does not match education
Is your attacker trying to tell you that he has a Ph.D. in philosophy or works as a translator, but his written expression looks like if it was written by a first-grader? That’s another warning indicator.
Indicator number four – unbelievable coincidences
When you talk, does it seem like you’ve run into your soulmate who has the exact same interests as you? Does he or she claim to love the same literature, music, movies, go on vacation to the same places? Does her or she have the same views on absolutely everything? Apart from the fact that a relationship with someone like this would probably be very boring, there is again the chance that this is a scammer who is trying to win your favor in this way.
Be careful and think rationally
Whether one or more of the warning indicators described above start flashing, you should be cautious and not be fooled. Always think rationally and try to consider what you would say to your friend or acquaintance if they behaved in the same way as you. Alternatively, tell someone you know about your new relationship and ask for their opinion.