Catfishing cosmonauts, scamming soldiers: Never fall in love online?


Eventually the moment comes in every online romance scam where the mark is asked to send cash to pay for the likes of an urgent medical operation or flights home. — dpa

BERLIN: Easy money, a super job, the dream apartment, a huge inheritance and, of course, the love of your life: internet scammers promise them all. If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is.

A particularly perfidious and also common form of internet fraud is catfishing, which involves scammers posing in social networks or dating apps and pretending to be in love so to make their victims emotionally dependent on them. A warning sign is that actual face-to-face meetings never happen.

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Eventually the moment will come when your great online love claims to have run into money problems and cash is needed urgently to pay for a medical operation for example.

The scammer may also tell a story about stolen suitcases or lost passports, outstanding wages or unpaid hotel bills. There’s no limit to the imagination they apply.

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While female love scammers (or ones purporting to be female) often try to wrap their victims around their fingers with photos or sexual advances, male love scammers use a different method.

They often pretend to be successful doctors, soldiers or pilots, the consumer protection website Watchlist Internet has observed.

For their profiles, the criminals often copy pictures from the Internet. Anyone who sends the photos through the reverse image search of Bing or Google may be able to track down where they were taken from.

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But whether male or female, the criminals have learned that they are particularly successful when they say their alter ego is abroad, explain consumer protectors.

In this scenario, the scammers also like to message or video chat with their victim to further manipulate them.

At some point, the supposed soldier on assignment abroad will ask for cash via money transfer because he can’t access his own savings. At that point alarm bells should ring for the victim.

ALSO READ: Fake astronaut scams woman for US$30,000 ‘landing fee’ to return to Earth, Japan police say

The peak for this kind of fraud was surely reached when a scammer pretended to be a Russian cosmonaut on the International Space Station and persuaded a 65-year-old Japanese woman that he didn’t have the money for the return ticket to Earth.

With space photos and the promise to marry her as soon as he returned to Earth, he opened the lady’s heart and her wallet, tech website Gizmodo reports.

The woman transferred a total of 4.4mil yen (RM141,567) in five instalments until the steadily increasing monetary demands of the self-proclaimed cosmonaut finally gave her second thoughts and she contacted the police.

So what should anyone dating online be wary of? At the very latest, you should always become sceptical as soon as the question of money is raised, police advise. Namely, once you’re asked to make a pre-payment in return for something in the future.

Often the scammers will use adventurous stories about princes and gold treasures in order to fool their victims to hand over cash, often involving them being stuck abroad.

As a rule of thumb, criminologists advise that you should never transfer money to people you’ve never met or got to know in person, nor should you accept any other demands from them. – dpa

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