Are you talking to someone on line? Do you trust them? Could they be a catfisher, a scammer, a scallawag or a con?
Last week I outlined some typical characteristics and warning signs of interacting with an online scammer. I will continue outlining Tyler Cohen Wood’s indicators that the person you are speaking to online may be a catfisher.
Ms. Wood is a Cyber Branch Chief for an Intelligence Agency within the Department of Defense (DoD). She is the author of the book, Catching the Catfishers: Disarm the Online Pretenders, Predators and Perpetrators Who Are Out to Ruin Your Life. Here are some more indicators you should be aware of when you are using an online dating service:
- Do their stories match up? Complete a reference check!
If someone is pretending to be someone they’re not, they may have a difficult time keeping up with their fake persona. Colleges are the easiest reference to check. Call the alumni office to verify whether this person is in the alumni directory. When I wanted to check on one individual, I emailed his LinkedIn colleagues, and asked if they know “this person,” yes, I really did! One scammer was so bold he had me speak with his daughter who was home visiting from college, and when I asked her how Boulder was, she blanked. She was supposedly attending the University of Colorado.
- Check the times of the calls. By the way, how is their spelling or their command of the English language?
I have been contacted by many international catfishers, and for some reason, they will never call between 12:00am and 6:00am Sri Lanka time (2pm EST-8pm EST). We all make silly spelling mistakes, but if the person you are communicating with uses strange grammar and continuously makes odd spelling mistakes, maybe these writings are all coming from Google Translation, so proceed with caution.
- You will receive everything you would want to hear from a Prince Charming
“You are so beautiful,” “I think you are someone special,” “I love you” or you receive a marriage proposal, sometimes all within the first twenty-four hours of meeting this person online. Need I say red flag to this one?
- In the first few days, are the communications hot and heavy with frequent emails, texting and contact? What happens next?
My experience with scammers is that it takes five to seven days of hot and heavy intrigue, seduction, in pursuit of the development of trust. Then it is time for the “ask.” Some catfishers may take up to a month and work it very slow, all during which time, red flags are still appearing. Usually this period of time is accompanied by the building up of the “story.” This story could be a “colossal break,” a deal so big they can retire on it, or they are working on the opportunity of a lifetime. Once they know they have your trust, there then follows a disaster. A partner pulls out of the deal, leaving the scammer high and dry. Or they need to fly to Europe immediately, and they need some cash to finalize the deal. They may need large amounts of cash to be sent in order to complete business obligations. They need to bribe corrupt local officials, or they may have been “robbed” and lost all of their belongings. Just about any story will do, and it is usually a large amount of money that will satisfy them. What is totally amazing is that if you say no, it will not stop the scammer from asking again and again.
There are a great variety of scripts scammers use to ask for money. The first step is appearing on a dating or social media site with a fake profile and credentials. Some scripts, or roles, these scammers use will portray them as an American soldier stationed overseas, a businessman from the United States who spends the majority of his time traveling internationally, or the entrepreneur who has the biggest international deal of a lifetime knocking at his door, usually involving oil, diamonds or gold.
Catfishers follow similar scripts in regard to the role of their family members. The scammer is often a widower, spending too many years grieving for the dead partner, and you are the first person that really “gets” him. There are always kids, all very smart, but they are studying abroad. There are also possessions, more than one house, vacation timeshares, and an antique sports car. All plenty of stuff to check online, but there isn’t any record online, so beware!!
Most important to remember, is never give them money. Once the money is transferred, the scammer simply disappears, leaving you with a broken heart and an empty bank account. There is little chance of prosecution or recovery since these scammers are often located in other countries.
Of course, not everyone is out to scam you. There are plenty of legitimate individuals seeking a partner on these dating sites. The intention of this post is not to make you paranoid. Ultimately, if you’re doubting this situation – you’re most likely right. If you encounter some of the scenarios and warning signs I have listed above, end the relationship immediately, never arrange a date and never, ever give this person any money. Be the fish that got away.
Next week, I will discuss ways that you can protect yourself from online predators.