A few days ago I was at a party in my neighbourhood and – as it happens when you are the token geek – people talked to me a lot about the internet and how scary it is.
The internets are scary and full of evil people
Normally I shrug at this as a lot of evil things on the web are just plain obvious. For example I never understood the whole thing about the Nigeria scams. If you are really that greedy and thick that you think someone you don’t know needs to dump a gazillion dollars in your account and gives you a share you deserve to be fooled. It is like a guy asking you on the street if he could stash 50kg of Cocaine in your house till the police stops checking on his and you’ll get a share of the sales – would you do that?
Turns out, the internets are scary – at least in a very active subsection
What annoyed and subsequently disgusted me though was a very evil routine a lot of scammers infiltrating dating sites pull right now:
- They make contact with a person looking for a relationship/shag/meeting and do a great job of flattering you and appearing sincere.
- Once they got your confidence and offer a meeting they start getting sketchy
- Reluctantly they admit that it is very hard to meet as they look after a sick sibling/partner/parent and that their time is limited and they can’t travel or afford a hotel
- Sooner or later they will ask for a “big favour” to lend some money till the end of the month for medication and they swear that you’ll get it back once you meet.
To prove that this really happens I created some fake accounts (with both sexes – the scam works both ways but more women are targeted) and waited. A few winks later and some email back and forth I can safely say that this scam is pretty much rampant on several free dating sites at the moment.
Well, it is obvious that you should never ever give a stranger money – no matter how nice they appear but the sheer amount of deceit in this scam is the really sickening part of it. To a degree it is genius:
- People on dating sites are already emotionally involved
- They want to meet a nice, sincere person with feelings
- Someone tending to a sick person must be a wonderful human being and naturally doesn’t have time to go out and naturally would want to do everything online
- The scammers really do a great job using the right language to make you feel good and give up some of your information
I don’t even want to think about the other implications – like people sending naughty photos to these scammers and then becoming blackmail victims. This would be especially the case with people who are married and look for fun on the side.
Countermeasures – be safe out there
So the main things I found these scammers to do are a few steps – so be very cautious when this happens:
- Do not fall for the “let’s email each other instead – this is too slow here”. Granted, they have a point. A lot of dating sites take ages to send messages to each other (I guess as they are monitored for illegal content) and it can be frustrating to wait. If the dating site systems offered an email notification that would make things much easier – and a good live chat on the site. Most offer these things, but only for a paid account and the sites I tried all sucked big time to use on a phone.
- Scammers delete their profiles really fast – claiming they “found you – I don’t need wait for more”.
- Don’t believe in photos without a special – it is nice to get a lovely photo but be adamant to get another one that proves this person is real – ask them to hold a candle or a can of soup or whatever and check for obvious photoshop stuff.
- People who want to go on messenger with you and don’t have a working camera are scammers – why else would you move to messenger? You can chat on other systems. Messenger is as personal as it gets, don’t forget that.
- Don’t go to any other web site – if they want to send a photo – make it an email attachment.
- Use a new email dedicated to this – don’t use any where you store other important information and never – ever – use your company email!
- Be aware of overly warm language – if the “dear”, “sweetie” and “missed you soo much” sentences crop up very early at a stage where you really don’t know anything about each other you have a scammer.
- Ask for specifics – if a person claims to be from a certain area, ask about things you know that are there. Make up wrong things and see if they claim they are true. “Oh I loved to go to the Ivy there – wonderful pub, is it still around?”
Why this sucks
Despite the obvious sickening piggy-backing on the terrible happening of someone dying of a terminal disease this scam furthermore fortifies the believe that people are all bastards, can’t be trusted and will try to take advantage of you – especially on the internet. In a society that largely stops talking to another in public (unless we live in the state of inebriation) this is where a lot of people go to find someone else which makes that very hard for anyone to find happiness. This also means that if you really are a warm hearted human being on the web who tries to find someone you will have a damn hard time to do so – as people predefine you as fake before you even start saying anything.
It would be interesting to see what dating sites could do to battle this trend.