Hey there, good news! According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans reported losing only $143 million to shame and romance scams in 2018. Why is this good news you ask? Well, the numbers are down from $211 million in 2017 so the number of victims are dropping. So, as people get more wise, so do the scammers. With this latest bizarre Facebook scam however, it was political. Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard is now speaking out, pressuring Facebook to do more to combat fake accounts. Mr. Kinzinger’s has been battling scammers for years as they have frequently used his image in their schemes. This latest scam however is something we can all learn from. Recently Representative Kinzinger had an unusual visitor at his constituent office inside a bus station in Rockford, Ill. A woman from India had flown to meet Mr. Kinzinger, claiming that she had developed a relationship with him on Facebook. She waited in that bus station for two weeks for him to show up, and he never did (because he didn’t know about her!). She was a poor lady too, so it had taken all of her money to fly from India to Illinois. This episode was just one of many bizarre interactions Mr. Kinzinger has had over the past decade with women around the world who believed they were dating him. After getting fed up, he sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, requesting more information and action about what the company was doing to prevent such fraud on its sites. Adam Kinzinger said that swindlers have posed as him to dupe women on Facebook and that the company should take steps to stop such scams. He feels that there needs to be accountability for this issue as it can destroy lives. Facebook has an immensely significant role to play in getting this situation under control as there are no signs of it slowing down. In an interview, Mr. Kinzinger said he is in the early stages of preparing legislation that would force social-media companies to do more to fight the problem.
The Take AwayOf course I don’t like telling you about a recent security issue without giving you some guidance. So here’s the deal: On-line scammers follow a pretty predictable 3-step process to get you to send them money.
Step 1: Get to know youThe first and most important step in the process is for the scammer to get to know their victim. I know this sounds obvious but I can tell you personally, from having interviewed countless people on the air, most people light up when talking about themselves and the kind of things that interest them. Scammers use this fundamental human trait to get people talking about themselves. Victims often don’t receive much attention from others, so you can see how just a little attention can make them easy prey.
Step 2: Get you to like themSo, after a victim has been sharing things about themselves, they’re going to naturally like the person listening on the other end of the line. After all, they listened to them. Who else listens to them like this mysterious person on Facebook? Add the fact that these fake profiles are often constructed with glamorous photos, achievements and interests, no wonder the victim is going to like them so much.
Step 3: Get you to trust themOnce the scammer has established knowing and liking, the last element is trust. The scammer can send messages personalized to the victim demonstrating empathy, information and guidance that are so enticing that the victim has no choice but to trust the person. Once trust is established, it’s when scammers usually start asking for money from the victim. It can be for school, a sick family member, to pay for an emergency trip, to fix a broken car they need to go to work – whatever they can think of, tailored to the information they have gathered about the victim. They will pull on the victims heart strings. If this sounds like you or someone you know, don’t fall for it. So now you know the secret formula scammers use every day to scam millions of Americans out of their hard earned money.
Stay safe out there.