Vigilance is key, lookout for red flags to avoid being scammed

31 Aug 2023 05:47pm
Photo for illustration purposes only - 123RF
Photo for illustration purposes only - 123RF

SHAH ALAM - Identifying and controlling love scams are crucial in today's digital age, where online interactions can easily turn into deceptive schemes that prey on individuals' emotions and weaknesses.

Love scams also known as catfishing involve frauds by individuals who create fake profiles to manipulate people into developing love relationships with them, often with the intention of extracting money or personal information.

To protect oneself and loved ones from falling victims to such scams, it is important to be vigilant and have the knowledge to recognise these deceitful tactics.

Universiti Sains Malaysia cybersecurity and AI researcher Associate Professor Dr Selvakumar Manickam said identifying a love scammer involved being cautious and recognising several unmistakable signs.

This, he said was because scammers often presented an idealised version of themselves that seemed too good to be true and they would swiftly escalate the relationship by professing strong emotions early on.

"They frequently avoid in-person meetings, creating excuses related to distance or emergencies.

"Inconsistencies in their shared information and stories can be warning signs as they are reluctance to share personal details," he said.

Selvakumar said one of the red flags or clear indicator of a scam was when a scammer requested for money even before meeting the victims in person.

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"A clear indicator is when they request for money, often creating elaborate stories to justify their financial needs.

"Additionally, scammers might use stolen photos from the internet and might be evasive about video chatting.

"Therefore, vigilance is key. If someone shows these signs, it's vital to exercise caution, cease communication and report their profile to the relevant platform to safeguard yourself and others from falling victim to love scams," he said.

When asked on how people could refrain themselves from being involved with money issues through love scams, Selvakumar said it was better to put an end to it by ceasing communication with the perpetrator or report the profile.

"One should avoid sending money to online acquaintances, especially those whom you have just connected with.

“Social media users should prioritise personal financial security and never share sensitive financial information.

"If anyone asks for money, cease communication and report the profile," he added.

Commenting further, Criminologist and Arunachala Research and Consultancy founder R. Paneir Selvam said overly being given attention to and care indicated that something was wrong because a normal person would not have much time to focus only on one person.

“In normal relationships, there are fights, ups and downs and they can't give 100 per cent attention since couples have their own thing to do.

"But if a person is giving full attention frequently, instantly replies your messages or calls, it is a sign that something is wrong because normal people don't do that since they have other commitments such as work, family and friends.

"But for the scammers, you are the only aim so they spend their time only for you until they gain your trust and once they have gained your trust, they will manipulate you,” he said when contacted.

Panier said scammers often target divorcees, widows and those whose age exceeded the age of marriage.

Therefore, he urged the public to not livestream or update their personal information on social media.

Meanwhile, Universiti Malaya Mind Faculty consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist Dr Stephen Jambunathan said catfishing or love scams were a growing 'easy trade or 'profession'.

"Some of the more common victims are a specific population of people such as the affluent, financially desperate people, single and lonely and people with impaired judgment often due to possible mental illness," he said.

He also provided several ways on how to control or eradicate love scams.

"First, we need to monitor the younger population’s access as to online activities and monitoring financial movements.

"On a larger scale, bankers have to be involved. Abnormal withdrawals, abnormal amounts, changes in withdrawal patterns and being able to trace where money has been transferred to," he added.

Jambunathan said the law can play a major role by increasing avenues for victims to lodge reports where the middle parties like banks and network companies were liable to a strong degree of responsibility.

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