Fake Friends, Liars and Gumtree scams

A number of interesting articles/pieces came my way recently, especially the piece on the number of fake Facebook accounts being found.  Even when they are removed from Facebook, they are replaced by others…  I also watched a TED talk on how to spot liars, get quoted in an article about Gumtree scams, add a warning about phishing and about scam promises to get your money back.

Fake friends

Recently journalists at the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission), our national TV and Radio network, broke a story about hundreds of fake Facebook accounts linked to ‘Texas’, a town of 900 people in Queensland, Australia.

Of the 500 fake accounts they identified, they identified 448 of these as having suspicious signals. Similar anomalous accounts can also be found for our towns of Miami (Queensland), Virginia (Queensland) and Toronto (New South Wales).”  They think it is because scammers are trying to use North American locations, but the Australian city links come up first.  It’s a case of mistaken location:

“When filling out a Facebook profile, if you type in “Texas”, intending to choose a town in the US state, “Texas, Queensland” is auto-suggested as the third option in the drop down of location names. It comes after “Texas City, Texas” and “Texarkana, Texas”, but before more well-known Texan cities such as Dallas, Houston and Austin.

“ABC News provided details of 218 of these accounts to Facebook on July 4 and, within a few days, most of them had disappeared off the platform.”

“Of those 218, almost half of those were profiles of US military personnel serving in Afghanistan who claimed to come from Texas, Queensland.”

It is about time companies like Facebook did more about these fake profiles given that Facebook is increasingly a source of contact for romance scams.

Remember: do not respond to any unsolicited contacts from people on Facebook.

How to Spot Liars

I watched a Ted Talk (from 2011) about How to Spot a Liar with Pamela Meyer.  I’ve pulled out a number of pieces that struck me as important from the perspective of romance scams.

“Lying is a cooperative act. Think about it, a lie has no power whatsoever by its mere utterance. Its power emerges when someone else agrees to believe the lie.”

However, whilst this seems very pertinent to romance scams, this, as I paraphrase her, is the human condition…

She talks about the con man, Henry Oberlander, who once said: Look, I’ve got one rule.”-  everyone is willing to give you something. They’re ready to give you something for whatever it is they’re hungry for.” She says this means that if you don’t want to be deceived, you have to know what is it that you’re hungry for.

Unfortunately, this illuminates the mechanism of scams more than how victims can avoid scams.  Its already happened.  Thinking about my own scam, in hindsight, I agree with the comment though. One of the things I/we are hungry for is the connection with another, a partner or companion, and scammers feed on this.

Of our ability to spot liars, most of us are only 54 percent accurate whilst professional liar spotters are 90 percent accurate.  This, she says, is shown by the research.

Some tips to spot liars as relevant to romance scams include:

  • liars will unconsciously distance themselves from their subject” – scammers will often do this through the use diminutives and nicknames instead of an actual name e,g, “baby”, “nectar”.  This also means they are less likely to be caught out when moving from one victim to another.
  • Use of “qualifying language” – Scammers will say they are looking for someone who is honest, trustworthy and open”. This implies that they, the scammers, are this.  In truth, they are not. They are liars.

She also talks about some of the inconsistencies that can be seen in body language.  As scam victims, we miss these inconsistencies because we do not see them, and the scammers ensure that we do not by saying their webcam is broken/not working.

This TED Talk is well worth a watch…

Gumtree scams

An article/report You’ve basically given them a free iPhone’: Aussies have lost $50 million this year in scams by MAWUNYO GBOGBO details how scams are carried out on Gumtree.

This report was broadcast on ABC Radio PM program and also posted Online. the online article includes an acknowledgment of the impact and financial losses due to romance scams, whilst the radio report has quotes and a book read from me.

Phone phishers

Phishing for personal details via phone calls may have nothing to do with Romance Scams, but it is still driving us crazy:

In Wikipedia, Phishing is defined as “ the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and money), often for malicious reasons, by disguising as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

I’ve been put on alert by a colleague and I’m passing this alert on to you.

You may receive a phone call from someone saying they are doing a survey or doing research, and asking you to call another number.  When calling that number there is a live person who will ask questions, including your personal details.  As well as getting that information for use by scammers, in calling the number you may also be opening up your landline to be captured by scammers to use for calling other victims or to hack any computers attached to your landline.  DO NOT CALL THAT SECOND NUMBER.

We already know of the calls that come in when there seems to be no-one there.  This can also be to check if there is a pickup, for a later callback.  This might be a prelude to a scam call

If you do not know the number calling DO NOT PICK UP.

Phishing, collecting your personal details, is also occurring via social media.  This is being done by fake surveys and fake gift card offers.  Check out SCAMWATCH  on this topic.

Promises to get your money back

Have you been contacted by someone promising to get back money lost to a scam? This too is a scam.  I have been approached (via email or on my blog) by a number of people purporting that they have been helped to get their money back to the scale of thousands of dollars.  I have found these emails on a list showing known scammers, and will not publish them.  Be wary of anyone promising to get you’re your money back – it will cost you if you don’t.

Published by

Jan Marshall

I was the victim of an online romance scam in 2012. I lost over $260k. I share my understanding about what happened, how I recovered and the latest trends