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Facebook Romance Scams: A New Global Business

Posted On   date18/11/2014

Facebook Romance Scams: A New Global Business

Many people say that romance scams are as old as the hills, and they might be right. Love scams have been going on for a long time, but they do have evolved a lot. The typical Nigerian scam still finds its victims, but every day people are more aware and it gets harder for scammers to catch their prey. Online dating sites have won a fairly bad reputation for being full of fake accounts and people lying about themselves, which has scared off many of their potential users. This situation has forced criminals to seek new ways of reaching their targets, and Facebook seems to be the center of all attention now.  Do you like connecting with new people?  So do criminals, so it’s wise to be careful about how you’re “friends” with to lower your risk for scams and fraud.

People are becoming more skeptical with most of their online activities. Everyone seems to be taking a lot more precautions about safe online shopping and they´re vigilant about their credit card activity, especially with the most recent data breach news. They click less on the spam links sent to their emails promising miraculous cures to diseases and unbelievable beauty treatments. They try to avoid every colorful banner that says “You just won a prize”. But there is one place where people are still being careless and where they tend to lower their guard, and that is happening mostly on Facebook.  On Facebook, users have traditionally felt that it’s a place to connect with friends and family.  Romance scams just didn’t happen here.  Now, things have changed and no site is immune.

Facebook romance scams do not always happen because people look for love in the wrong place. Most of the victims were not looking for love at all. Romance scams have been thriving on Facebook because people have not yet learned how to protect their privacy online. Most of Facebook´s users have no idea of how to use the privacy settings available to them, and they share too much online.  Internet criminals use all available information to their advantage, and what you share, likely can and will be used against you at some point.  Telling the world what you like and don’t like, from a safety standpoint, is generally a bad idea.  If criminals and scammers become your friend, or know all about what you like, they can connect with you and slow gain you trust.  For those who share dates of birth and vacation schedules, needless to say the risks for serious crime are greater.

How can this happen? Picture this as an example:

A woman in her mid 40´s is really proud of herself because she once and for all beat laziness. She posted a selfie of herself during her morning workout saying for a year in a row she´s been running, and she has never felt better since her divorce. She didn´t check if her picture was public, or how to set your Facebook privacy settings. She also thinks it´s all right because nobody but her friends will care about a picture of her workout, but she´s wrong. She just handed a scammer with an incredible amount of information. From that picture a criminal knows she likes running, she is divorced, she´s caring about her looks (probably looking forward to a new relationship); maybe the picture even hints of her financial possibilities due to what she is wearing and the place she tagged. And then, surprisingly, one day she meets someone on Facebook who loves running, who was born in the same town, and is friends with one of her old classmates and a new friendship starts. This woman never saw any reason to verify the new contact, who was actually a serious and dangerous criminal behind a nice profile.  Sound far fetched?  It is literally happening every single day.

There are endless scenarios similar to the one above, but you can get the idea.  Share some information for the world to see, or connect or become “friends” with someone on Facebook who you don’t know in real life, and you could be at risk.  Do it often, and you can count on being a victim of fraud, scam, identity theft or other more serious crimes at some point.    Tell people what you are looking for, and don’t be surprised when the perfect profile comes along.  Internet criminals and romance scammers are experts at showing you what you want.

This is no fiction; this is the job of many people around the world. Once the contact has been made, romance scammers know very well how to handle things and they know it takes time, but the chances of succeeding are very good.  Even if someone never asks for money, and seems completely innocent, there are countless ways they can slowly access your information and blackmail you and steal your money.

International private investigators say that people have a lot of misconceptions about romance scam victims. Some say they deserve being scammed because they were too naive or desperate.  Some think it could never happen to them.  You’re too smart, too careful, too skeptical.  Maybe.  But, you’d be surprised how many victims said the same.  The truth is, anyone can be a victim, no matter how smart, or how careful you think you may be.  If you meet someone on Facebook or Match.com or other social media and online dating sites, take the time to verify.

Speak to a professional about a proper and comprehensive background check investigation.

C. Wright
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