MUHAMAD Al-OTHMAN WRITES– Online dating has taken the Asian region by storm, although not without consequence. Currently, online scams– where perpetrators convince their online ‘partner’ to send them money or give them access to their data– has swept over the Philippines. With the advent of the internet came the woes of online love seekers.

Dating in the new millennia has shifted online, with predators posing as potential soulmates, scamming to drain a victim’s account or use their details to commit fraud. Online romance scamming has gotten so out of hand, the FBI now calls it “confidence fraud.”

Scamming is not a new activity, as con artists have existed since time immemorial. However, the accessibility afforded by technology broadened their pool of victims and gave them the option of anonymity which appeals to scammers. Additionally, the complex nature of online scamming makes it harder to get caught — hence increasing the rate of scams.

Each story is complex, with most victims not even knowing about the con. A Filipino woman was recently saved from becoming an example of a scam when a bank manager grew suspicious of a US$1,250 transfer to a foreign account. The manager suspected the woman to be a victim of a syndicate of running online romance scams. The woman’s request raised suspicion because the amount was significant for a migrant equaling to roughly two months’ wages, the Asia Times reported.

Unfortunately, the story isn’t the same across the board. Many individuals have confessed to having been duped while seeking love online. Under the pseudonym, Joanna, a woman from Manila, admitted to having been scammed by an individual she met on OkCupid, the Rappler detailed.

These crimes are incredibly difficult to solve as the anonymity ascribed to people online is next to impossible to trace. Plus, it is legally tricky to convict culprits as their victims indirectly give consent to the scam/robbery–as we saw in the case of the Filipino woman saved by the bank manager. They are willing victims which makes it problematic to prove that a crime did take place.

In some cases, once the crime has occurred, the victim continuously engages the scammer. Notably, this could be due to the connection they believe they have with the perpetrator. Sometimes the victim is in too deep, having developed an emotional attachment to the person that scammed them and thus disbelieving they could con them.

As the developing cases of romance scams increase, it is essential to be safe and watch out for indicators of scamming. For instance, look out for individuals that do not use personal photos and instead use pictures for models and places on their profile. It is essential to conduct a reverse image search when a photo seems suspicious. Scammers often pretend to like the things their victims like, hence it is imperative to be more inquisitive. Also, such individuals do not like video calling, and they tend to come on strong. Authorities are encouraging more victims to report such cases to help in curbing future crime. The authorities give victims a way forward and security against future attempts.

Currently, no countries have successfully handled the issue of online scamming due to its novelty.

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