Billions of people around the world use social media.
In late 2020, stats showed that Facebook was the most used social media platform with nearly 2.8 billion monthly users.
Everyone uses Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tik Tok for different reasons.
Sadly, crooks also use social media to scam vulnerable people out of hard-earned money. Professional con men and women are aware of how lonely the world has become, especially during Covid and lockdown and they are pulling out all stops and reaching new lows in skilfully stealing money from unsuspecting romantics looking for love.
As February, the proverbial month of love draws to an end, I would like to caution people – especially WOMEN – against looking for love online.
One of the worst things that can happen is that you actually find what you are looking for!
Hundreds of thousands of women worldwide have been manipulated and conned into thinking they had found rich men who would be able to wine, dine and pamper them – only to later realise that they have been duped into parting with their hard-earned cash.
Many women are left heartbroken, humiliated and often heavily indebted.
Many are left so embarrassed that they don’t even report it to the authorities and don’t expose the perpetrators – leaving them to continue with their con game.
Women are the biggest victims and some lose millions of rands.
Recently a South African businesswoman lost R5 million.
She had to move out of her mansion in Johannesburg and now lives from hand to mouth in Cape Town, where she depends on good samaritans for financial support.
These scammers have patterns and tell the same lies, which include:
- Using stolen or internet pics of innocent men who look like supermodels.
- Often use pics of fancy cars and mansions.
- Will have pics of all the exotic vacation destinations they have supposedly been to.
- They will say they are in the military, working on an oil rig or even that they are doctors with an international organisation.
To some people, all of the above would immediately bring up red flags and lead them to cancel the Facebook friend request.
Personally, I block these type of profiles to get rid of them as soon as possible because these skelms kan dik hou.
Yet, not everyone recognises these signs as a part of a scam and they continue to engage.
One woman said that after months of WhatsApp flirting and romantic telephone calls, her Facebook friend, who by then claimed to have visited Europe for a wedding, started telling her about having a problem with his bank account and convinced her to lend him money with only a promise to repay her.
“I deposited thousands of rands and he kept requesting more and more money, and I agreed because he promised to pay me as soon as his account is sorted,” she said.
Even at this point in time, she still didn’t see anything wrong.
She was sweet-talked into making more and more deposits until she no longer had any money left.
Once her money dried up, her “friend” closed his bank account, deleted his Facebook account, went off WhatsApp, and was essentially… gone with the wind.
It is indeed sad when this happens to women who have money, but it’s even worse when vulnerable women who don’t have cash on hand are sweet-talked into taking out loans that they have to continue repaying long after their “loverboy” has disappeared.
No bank or money lender is simply going to write off your loan debt because you were looking for love and got conned!
No provision was made in the National Credit Act for that scenario!
Here are some tips to avoid being love-conned on Facebook:
- Avoid accepting friend requests from people you don’t know and have no mutual friends with – especially foreigners.
- Don’t ever respond to a friend request that has no profile pic. No one needs “Casper the friendly ghost” as a Facebook friend.
- Follow your gut feeling. If it looks and feels too good to be true, it probably is.
- However, if you have been chatting to someone who looks like a supermodel and has a jetset lifestyle – invite them to talk to you via a camera-based platform.
- Do a video call on Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts or any other platform that will force them to show their face and their surroundings.
- Most importantly, DON’T ever send money to someone you don’t know.
There are many people who would ridicule the victims of these scammers – but let us not judge too harshly.
People are lonely and sad and out of desperation for love and companionship they sometimes make bad decisions, losing their money and self-respect in the process.
That being said – it is vitally important that we be more vigilant than ever with our finances.
We can’t afford to be falling prey to con men and women who are looking for easy targets.
If it looks too good to be true – it probably is.