The last few days of angry blogging/tweeting on my photos being part of catfishing scammers have taken a toll. I am unfocused on work, wound up, and not spending enough time outside under the skies.
Blog, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
There is no way to really stop the methods that the catfishers are using; they are generally overseas, many in West Africa, out of legal jurisdictions. They have sophisticated tools of mass fake account creation for which the mechanisms provided by Facebook/LinkedIn are the equivalent of a pea shooter.
I do not feel like the fakes are impersonating me; in fact they are impersonating someone who does not exist. One might even say they are practicing, though not in a way of attributing original works, a [sick] form of remix. I’ve used other people’s or move characters images in my own remixes. The important difference is intent.
And it’s not really hurting me. While some of the scams may carry out over years, at some point things hopefully click for the victim. Something feels wrong. They do a reverse image search, and maybe find the photos of their lover on another person’s profile. Heck, it may even be another fake profile they find that makes them start to question.
But I am not defrauding anyone; I doubt any romance scam victim is going to be angry at me; I am a victim as well, though much less victimized than someone who has been robbed of both money and trust.
In any place and time, there have always been people who, for their own perceived needs, see it rationale to take or steal or abuse others. It’s always happened, and likely always will.
There is no stopping what they are doing.
I also have no ability to change the way Facebook works. I cannot even get them to respond to my questions. That’s a dead end.
My account is still suspended. Any
when if it unsuspends, I might nuke it, or I might just continue to put the least amount of activity/information that helps their bottom line. Because I cannot investigate Facebook without giving them something, and that is slightly diabolical on its own.
That too, I cannot change.
The courage to change the things I can,
The thing I can do is try to help people, through writing here, and commenting elsewhere, to be more savvy in detecting the frauds. This might mean we suggest that, in a way counter to our instinct, we start of with a position of having doubt about people we meet in social medias as possible fakes. Despite multiple photos of them in different places, numbers of other people interacting with them (the scammers now create networks of fakes, see this scary story that happened to Alec Couros where his brother’s and mother’s photos were used to create the fake family).
People need to learn to do a reverse image search where you can try to find the same or similar image used elsewhere, Google Images is good, but I have seen them not match things that a service like TinEye does.
Just search their name. See if the company they claim to works for even exists; and if so, see if there is any association. Why are so many of them petroleum engineers? Well that explains phone numbers coming from Africa. It seems plausible…
Be extra, extra, extra suspicious when they ask for money. Do not be drawn into the emotional fuel of the story. Do you really want a relationship with someone who lacks the ingenuity or even curiosity to learn about a person they met online?
Check the places where people report this activity. It seems appropriate that many groups are in Facebook, e.g. https://www.facebook.com/victimsofcatfishing/ or https://www.facebook.com/MilitaryRomances/. Seek out the information and reports on Romance Scam who has been fighting this since 2005:
No matter how good they sound, things aren’t what they appear to be. In reality you’re talking to a criminal sitting in a cybercafé with a well-rehearsed script he’s used many times before. He’s hunting through chat rooms, dating sites and social networking sites searching for victims, looking to cash in on romance. If you are over 40, recently divorced, a widow, elderly or disabled then all the better in his eyes. Scammers use any weakness they find to their advantage.
It’s the newest evolution of the Nigerian advance fee (419) scam. Instead of sending spam letters that promise millions for your assistance, these scammers are targeting single men and women who are searching for love online.
They use psychological tricks to lure their victims in, use poetry and even gifts to get them under their spell, and then once you are there, will try to reach for your wallet, all the time declaring their “undying love” for you. The scam may take the form of asking you to cash a check for them through your bank account because they are “out of the country” and unable to cash it themselves, or they may come right out and ask you to send money to help them out of a fabricated “financial difficulty” they claim to be experiencing. These are all lies used to try to make them easy money from an unsuspecting victim.
The sad truth is, for every real profile you see on the internet, there are numerous false ones pretending to be your perfect mate and using photographs stolen from modelling or social networking sites. The people in the photographs are as much victims as those who get scammed for hundreds or thousands dollars. Internet romance scams and other related crimes are affecting and ruining lives throughout the world.
The best weapon against this crime is education. The more people that are educated in the way the scams work, the harder it is for the scammers to make money and the more scammers that can be put out of business.
The best weapon against this crime is education.
If you are informed or skeptical, you are not insincere. In fact, a true online love will be that more attracted to you (IMHO) for being savvy. True lovers are not looking for suckers.
And the wisdom to know the difference.
That’s what I am working on. Always.
Getting angry is not working. Trying to change a system I cannot change is not working.
I need some Grand perspective.
Top / Featured Image Credit: The sky I enjoy from my back deck, flickr photo by cogdogblog http://flickr.com/photos/cogdog/14686946603 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license