The mechanics of the scamThe criminals set up remarkably convincing “imposter profiles” on social media and dating services. They then begin to work their targets very slowly, requesting small amounts of money. The imposter profile is not a new phenomenon; it has matured and shifted its focus. This type of “social engineering” is the original method of all confidence games: gain the victim’s trust, then deliver the sting. In a recent report in a popular retirement magazine, a romance scammer told how he would work more than one target at a time. The payout to one criminal could be double or triple, depending on how many victims he convinces. The saddest part of the scam is that the criminals also play on the victim’s loneliness. A recently divorced or widowed person is a prime target for the well-crafted and patient criminal. Worst of all, the slow and patient nature of this crime allows plenty of time for the stolen money to be irretrievably transferred away from a recoverable trail. The FBI agents are tasked with having to explain to the victims that the money is simply gone – forever.
Loss of love and economic stability; a dual blow to an already vulnerable targetIf you are an older citizen, or you have a parent who is in a newly single situation, try the following any time you meet a new person through social media:
- When you first get involved with an unknown person through social media, run a quick search in your favorite search engine and see what turns up (of course, if the person has a very common name, this could create a large set of results).
- Most important, use the image search feature in Google and upload the photo of the person and see if it is an imposter (many imposters borrow images from the internet).
- For a small fee, you can check the background of the person to see if the information about the person matches what they are saying, such as location, profession and hobbies.