OTHMAN Al-OTHMAN WRITES– Online dating has taken the Asian region to heart, although not without consequence. Currently, online scams– in which perpetrators convince their online ‘partner’ to send them money or give them access to their data– have flooded the Philippines.
Among the many who are affected: online love-seekers. Dating has shifted online, with predators posing as potential soulmates, scamming to drain victims’ accounts or use their personal details to commit fraud. Online romance scamming has gotten so out of hand, law enforcement now calls it classic “confidence fraud.”
Scamming is not a new activity, as con artists have existed since time immemorial, but the accessibility afforded by technology has broadened the pool of victims and granted anonymity to scammers. Additionally, the complex nature of online scamming makes it harder to get caught — hence increasing the rate of scams.
Scamming stories can be complex. A Filipino woman was recently saved from falling prey to a scam when a bank manager grew suspicious of a US $1,250 transfer to a foreign account. The manager suspected her to be a victim of a syndicate running online romance scams. Why? Because the the amount of money she allegedly requested was equal to roughly two months’ migrant wages, the Asia Times reported.
Unfortunately, not all stories end this way. Many individuals have 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 difficult to solve due to the challenge of tracing people online. In addition, it is legally tricky to convict culprits, as their victims, indirectly, actually give consent to the scams, although unknowingly–as in the case of the Filipino woman lucky enough to have been saved by the bank manager. Worse, in some cases, once the initial crime has occurred, the victim continuously engages the scammer and is in so deep, having developed an emotional attachment to the scammer, that he or she simply disbelieves that it’s all a con.
How to cope in this dangerous online climate? A few pointers: 1) Look out for individuals who do not use personal photos and instead use pictures of models on their profiles; 2) Conduct a reverse image search when a photo seems suspicious; 3) Be inquisitive. Don’t take anyone’s identity at face value-literally.;4) Be suspicious if someone doesn’t like video calling or tends to come on strong; and 5) above all, encourage victims to report such cases to help curb future crime.
That’s a lot to ask. No wonder, so far, no country has successfully managed to curb this relatively novel menace of online scamming.