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Is Technology a Real Hope Against Romance Scams?

Is Technology a Real Hope Against Romance Scams?

Romance scams are yesterday’s news.  We all know about them and there’s no way you could be a victim, right?  Think again.  Unfortunately, criminals change their tactics and modus operandi on a regular basis.  As soon as you think you know what to watch out for, along comes a brand new twist.  Law enforcement and government agencies, such as the FBI, are working hard to educate the public about the risk.  Many officials, including some private investigators, say that new technology is going to go a long way to stopping these criminals.  In this article, we’ll take a look at whether or not this is true.

We´ve reached a point where we all know someone who met their spouse online, but most of us also know someone who has been scammed online.  So, how can you be so sure who you meet on the internet is the real thing?  Quite simply, you can’t.  When you’re dealing with an international relationship, the risk is even greater.  The U.S. embassy in Moscow for example has worked very hard to prevent marriage fraud and dating scams from Russia, but the criminals are simply far too many.  There are similar scenarios playing out around the world in the Philippines, Malaysia, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Romania, and so on.

Will technology really help you determine who is real and who is not?  Facebook is estimated to have over 80 million fake accounts!  Can you recognize them all?  Some online dating sites are even facing their own legal trouble for posting fake profiles (as if the internet criminals weren’t creating enough).

New technology could help consumers somewhat in the vetting process when meeting people online.  Advanced facial recognition software is one of them.  These programs can register characteristics that are unique to our faces, like iris patterns, and use that information to identify who is behind that face. This technology could at least make internet scammers work harder at choosing their photos.  Facebook is already using the technology to suggest people to tag photos of friends or acquaintances.

Websites that now help you trace emails and IP address are also helpful, but will this truly stop a romance scam?  Probably not.   The reality is, for every technology developed to stop a crime, there is a new tool developed to commit a crime.  Case and point:  Internet criminals routinely use IP masking software or proxy servers to conceal their location.  Scammers also Skype numbers to appear right down the street in West Virginia, or downtown in London, wherever they need to be to assume an identity and scam you.  Want to use facial recognition software, a growing number of scammers now use the identity of an actual person, so when you try to verify John Brown of New York, you will see that everything looks verified!

What has worked in the past will continue working in the future.  Stay skeptical, protect your private data, and never send money to anyone you’ve never met in person.  When in doubt, consider a professional background check to verify the subject, or cease all contact to be safe.

C. Wright
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