Are You And Your Kids Safe From Romance Scam?

Online Romance Scam

I wrote about common internet risks for kids and effects of internet attacks on kids in one of my previous posts on Feb 6, 2014. Cyber bullying, exposure to inappropriate material, online predation (including sexual predation and financial predation) and revealing too much personal information are the main and big internet risks which I discussed in that post.

This issue have been drawn attention of entire media in India on August 29, 2014 when the Supreme Court asked the Centre to find out solution to block porn sites, and, additional solicitor general L Nageshwar Rao submitted that when one site is blocked, similar multiple sites crop up.

This helplessness expressed by government inspired me to study, little bit investigate and research on this topic. It revealed some truth for me which I decided to share with all the readers of ekunji. It can help you and your kids to prevent yourself from serious internet risks including online romance scam.

Do you know, you and your kids could be a victim of online predation (including sexual predation and financial predation) without using pornography sites? Yes, it is true.

You must have listened by someone or read in newspapers and in online articles about lottery scam. This is an online financial predation in which someone sends email to you with the fake announcement of winning a large sum of money by you in a lottery. The e-mail sender asks you to pay “transfer charges” or “processing fee” after which the lottery winning amount will be deposited in your bank account. In actual, when you pay the huge transfer fee, then after you will never receive any winnings.

The same way a mix of sex and financial predation also exists on internet now days. Though, they target both male and female from every age group, but the percentage of male victims is quite higher than the female victims.

In this scam, the scammer can come in contact of you through any social media, online messenger services, dating websites, classified sites and even online forums. Once the scammer gains your affection through regular online chat, voice chat and webcam chat and finds you completely trapped, the fraud starts. The fraud typically involves the scammer acting as if they’ve quickly fallen for the victim so that when they have the opportunity to ask for money, the victim at that time has become too emotionally involved, and will have deep feelings of guilt if they decline the request for money from the scammer.

The most popular variations to extract the money from victims of the online romance scam are:

  • The scammer says their boss paid them in postal money orders. The scammer wants the mark to cash the money orders, and then wire money to the scammer. The forged money orders leave the banks to incur debts against the victims.
  • The scammer says they need the mark to send money to pay for a passport.
  • The scammer says they require money for flights to the victim’s country because of being left there by a step-parent, or husband/wife, or because they are just tired of living in their country and somehow never comes, or says that they are being held against their will by immigration authorities, who demand bribes.
  • The scammer says they are being held against their will for failure to pay a bill or requires money for hospital bills.
  • The scammer says they need the money to pay for the phone bills in order to continue communicating with the victim.
  • The scammer says they need the money for their or their parents’ urgent medical treatment.
  • The scammer says they need the money to successfully graduate before they can visit the victim.
  • A new variation is where the scammer invites the victim into a chat session, where pictures are given – usually of a pornographic nature. The scammer will then ask if the victim really loves and in relationship with him/her, and when the victim says yes, he is told by the scammer that the scammer is in some financial crisis due to lost of parents or lost of job etc. and the victim has to recharge the scammers mobile phone, pay internet bills or purchase some online gift vouchers for the scammer etc. Initially these payments are between $100 and $300.

When the victim questions this, the scammer will try to guilt the victim, saying “I guess you don’t really love me”, “I’m sorry you don’t trust me”, and many other things to keep the victim on the hook. Once you pay first small amount of $100 to $200, an infinite loop starts to extract money from you as soon as possible by the name of gift vouchers and payment of some online bills. They fool you by telling they love you. They exchange very romantic conversations and put the demand of money between those conversations, especially when the conversation goes towards somehow pornographic nature. The victim is not able to understand it at the moment due to the lure and pay some small and big amounts consecutively.

The scammer uses genuine websites for these money transfers and gift vouchers including paypal, mpesa, shopclues and even sometimes wire transfer facilities. After that, the scammer closes his all online accounts and ids and stop chatting with victim anymore.

The story not ended here in some cases. The scammers are now using technology wisely. They record romantic phone chats, voice chats and webcam chats through their smart phones and computers. Then they start to blackmail the victim for more money. This situation leads to more serious hazards. It could convert into a serious problem of self esteem, social reputation, and legal issues.

It is therefore very essential in today’s virtual world of internet to self aware and to aware your kids and family members about all these scams. Otherwise the smooth life of yours could go on the ride of jerks.

Scope of my post is to make you aware about these new online scams. I will highly appreciate if any cyber crime law expert will write a guest post at this blog on “What to do if anybody gets trapped in online romance scam by a scammer.” If some national and global law rulings are in existence to help victim of online romance scam, it could be a great to share it here on for the benefit of mass.

Photo Credit: Terence T.S. Tam

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