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Romance Scammers Flooding Facebook, Instagram and Other Social

Romance Scammers Flooding Facebook, Instagram and Other Social

Picture this: On a regular day while checking around your friends’ photos and posts you receive a friend request from a stranger. The name may sound familiar or not, but they’re friends with other people you do know, so you decide to accept the invitation. Your friends have accepted the stranger too, possibly for the same reasons you did. Then one day the stranger introduces, and you start a friendly chat. This is the beginning of the story of thousands of romance scams on Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms.

What seems like a harmless thing (accepting a friend request from a stranger) becomes the living hell of many. “Dating sites users are increasingly aware of the dangers of fake profiles and romance scammers, but social media users have not been warned enough,” says John Wallace, Director of Background Checks at Wymoo International.

The main difference between one and another is that dating website users are actively looking for friendship and romance, and they want to be very careful to choose their best option – which includes not picking the scammer or online criminal. However, social media users are just using the platform as a hobby, keeping up with family and friends, just trying to keep themselves entertained. They were not expecting to make a new friend or find love, it just magically happened, and they go with it.

Unfortunately, the coincidence is not a pleasant one. Romance scammers are actively looking for victims in these sites because it’s good business. On one hand, social media sites literally gather millions of potential victims from all over the world in one place. Plus, people tend to share their personal information, address, relationship status, employment, interests and more in these platforms. This gives scammers an advantage as they are somehow knowledgeable of what people like and their baggage, so they know how to gain their victim’s attention and trust.  In addition to silencing and cancelling opposing views and violating users’ privacy, Facebook also has failed to warn users or take action to remove fake profiles operated by criminals who target victims online.

Make no mistake, Facebook is not free, and everything you do, say, write, publish and every aspect about your internet and phone activity, including location data, is monitored, sold and shared to third parties, and when requested, provided to law enforcement or government agencies without your knowledge or consent.

Another important reason that Facebook and Instagram have become breeding grounds for scammers is that no verification is required to use the sites. You can open a profile one day with a false name, and 10 minutes later you can open another one. Online criminals actually steal photos and names from real people in these sites, and then they just use them to create hundreds of profiles. There is no effective way to control fake accounts, so scammers are being protected by anonymity. This basically means that the only one that can do something to properly verify a stranger you meet online is you!

What can users do to stay safe?

There are several steps that you can take to remain safe and avoid online criminals.

  1. Check your security and privacy settings. Make sure you know exactly who has access to what content that you share. Most of these sites have customizable settings and you can decide to share in different levels. If this seems too complicated, the best option is to share as little as you can. Sharing less is always a good idea anyways. Keep in mind anything you share can be used against you.
  2. Do not communicate with strangers. If someone sends a friend request and they do not sound familiar, ask who they are. Ask your friends too! Sometimes scammers use your friends’ names and pretend to be them. Ask if they opened a new account and confirm by another means, like a phone call. Always turn your location tracking off and only communicate with people you actually know.
  3. Some social networks are meant to interact with strangers, like online games. But believe it or not, thousands of victims met their scammers in the most unexpected and seemingly innocuous website while playing Words with Friends or chess. If you meet someone, keep the conversation general and do not provide details. If you become interested in this person, hire a dating background check investigation from a professional. Without a proper verification of the identity and background of your online friend, it will never be safe to continue communicating.

Social networks are fun if you use them carefully. If not, you could be at risk of losing your money, being heart-broken or putting your loved ones in danger.

C. Wright
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