That old saying still rings true today, in our technology driven and connected world maybe now, more than ever.
Never more so in than in the case of Romance Fraud today which has been in the Top 3 Fraud categories since 2019.
Over the weekend we sat down to watch the much-anticipated Netflix hit documentary ‘The Tinder Swindler’.
It’s worth noting it has topped the Netflix global most-watched list.
The documentary style film has clocked 45.8 million hours viewed globally during the week January 31-February 6, and been a hit in the Top 10 in 92 countries!.
Now we’ve all heard the warnings before, ‘Be careful who you connect with or meet online!!!’ It’s a key message in our educational workshops – applicable and resonating across all age rages. It seems so obvious, but maybe it’s not so obvious – particularly when you hear headline reports like ‘Belfast woman scammed out of £130,000 as PSNI warn of ‘Valentine’s Day fraudsters’. You have to wonder if people are truly aware of the risks when they connect with strangers online.
Unfortunately, the reality is that there are many different scams which people can fall victim to in online spaces and some are easier to spot that others. Some happen quickly and others play out over a much longer period allowing the swindler or fraudster to develop and build a relationship and level of trust with the unsuspecting victim.
The trust is we’re all at risk, every one of us. We think we’d never fall for it but we all go through vulnerable stages in our lives and that’s when these guys will pounce. They’re contacting people on a massive scale. They know the language and signs of someone who needs someone or something in their lives, or has been through a break-up or is just feeling low. And they’ll prey on it. This is callous targeting of vulnerable people. It’s about money. There is no empathy.
So getting scammed online is a lot more common than most people think. But it’s how we manage this risk and the steps we take to reduce the risk overall which can help.
Now here’s the thing, whether it’s a romance scam or any other online scam many of the steps you can take to protect yourself will remain the same.
Understand Scams are common online. Be Alert and recognise the signs. They happen each and every day. Online swindlers and fraudsters are getting smarter – taking advantage of new technology to concoct believable stories designed to catch you off guard or make you part with your hard-earned money or personal details. Paying close attention to who you are connecting with, what you click on and the personal details you disclose on websites and social media platforms and apps is key. Always consider the fact that it could be a scam, treat it with that caution and always stop and think before engaging.
Do your homework – Research is key, know who you are dealing with. If you are unsure carry out some further research – head over to Google and search for the business or person’s name. If an image or logo is available carry out a reverse image search. This can help you track the where the image is being used, for example see what other profiles or websites the image may be available on or to see if it’s associated with a fake or reported profile. Remember this is not foolproof. Back this up with other layers of investigation.
Keep your personal details secure – This can be a difficult one because although you might be doing your best to keep personal details safe, we also have to rely on websites, apps and platforms we use to do the same in our daily lives. Unfortunately, data breaches are on the rise, so ensuring you practise good digital hygiene is an important step you can take to help protect yourself. Getting into the habit of not reusing passwords, using the same one password more than once or sharing them with anyone. You’re probably thinking ‘How can I possible remember all of my passwords?’ One solution is to use a Password Manager which can store these securely and help generate a new password any time you need one.
Watch out for the curated social media profile – Many swindlers and fraudsters like Simon Leviev spend a long time carefully curating their social media profiles so that it matches up with the real life persona – pictures of flash cars, private jets, luxurious holiday destinations and, lavish restaurants allowed him to extend this digital life into the real world making it much more realistic and hard for a victim to spot. While much of the education, (some of which is mentioned in this blog), is not foolproof when it comes to recognising and avoiding scammers and fraudsters – increasing security, awareness and education around your online life will dramatically decrease your chances of being scammed. Romance fraud continues to impact the lives of thousands of people globally.
Always remember the goal for swindlers and fraudsters is money – so always consider the motives for any request you receive online asking for money, via a social media post or message. Remember these individuals are skilled and will go to great lengths to build your trust and confidence and convince you that you are in a genuine relationship before asking for money. They are experienced in how to manipulate, persuade and exploit so that requests for money do not raise alarm bells.
So, when you feel particularly vulnerable – as everyone does at some point in their lives, be especially vigilant online and try to minimise your time online with people you don’t know, seek support instead from people you do know and trust.
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