Megan Plete Postol
Online scamming activity historically spikes during the winter season, and this year scammers are cashing in on victims’ vulnerability due to the pandemic.
Criminals have recognized an opportunity due to the isolation in 2020 and are preying on the lonely like never before.
A recent study released from SocialCatfish.com analyzed the most recent data from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. The study, titled “Catfishing: A Growing Epidemic During COVID-19,” revealed that romance scams in particular were on the rise. New York State already had 931 documented victims of romance scams as of press time for the season, with that number projected to skyrocket as the pandemic restrictions continue.
Another popular tactic for scammers is to pose as a business.
“Scammers are everywhere and they’ve been particularly persistent since the pandemic began, as they’ve seen opportunity to take advantage of people when they’re struggling most,” Blake Hardwick, Marketing Manager of the New York based law firm Greenberg & Stein, PC, said. “Avoiding scammers isn’t always easy, but knowing what to look out for will ensure that you can spot one before falling victim to their malicious plots. Some of the most common scams at the moment are called ‘phishing scams.’ Basically, these come in the form of emails, messages, etc. whereby a scammer will try to seem like a legitimate company. The best ways to spot these scams are to look for spelling errors in the messaging, double-check the email address, check any links before clicking on them, and do a simple Google search (if you know the company is popular) then compare the web address to the one you’ve been directed to. If all of the above come back fine, you’re safe. It’s important to stay vigilant and avoid interacting with something until you know for sure it’s legitimate.”
Liam Clouds, the Project Manager at MiTRADE and also the on-page SEO-lead at ZEODigital, has some suggestions to avoid falling victim to online scammers.
“Do a background check before payments,” he said. “Ask for a signed contract or any form of legal agreement before striking a deal at all. If (a scammer) doesn’t have a proper online digital footprint as a business person such as a website, and neither a physical business location, (that’s a red flag). Check the profile name on a scam-checker site like TMJ4.com.”
The he survey’s findings also included a list of warning signs that online romance scammers are using during the pandemic. They include:
They cannot meet because of COVID: The pandemic gives them a built-in excuse not to meet. Beware.
They need money for a COVID emergency: Once they form an emotional connection with lonely victims, they ask for money saying they are sick and need help with treatment, or are low on food, water, and other supplies. These are lies.
They are overly sweet and/or confessing love quickly: Be Cautious of someone who says overly sweet things that are too good to be true.
They are moving too fast: Scammers are using the extra time at home to chat more often so they can build trust faster. Look Out if the relationship seems to move too fast.
They do not want to video chat: This is the oldest excuse in the book. The scammer claims they cannot video chat with you because their video camera is supposedly “broken”, or they do not have the best access to Wi-Fi. These are red flags. The real reason they do not want to video chat is that they are pretending to be someone that they are not.