ATTORNEY GENERAL TONG RELEASES GUIDANCE TO PROTECT AGAINST RELATIONSHIP SCAMS USING SOCIAL MEDIA
Following an uptick in cases of fraud on Facebook and Instagram where scammers steal the identities of U.S. servicemembers to cheat people out of their money, Attorney General William Tong is urging Connecticut residents to be aware. These scammers will try to strike up an online relationship with you, earn your trust, and then steal money from you or your loved ones.
"Heartless scammers have been caught posing as servicemembers on social media as a way to profit from others' generosity and compassion. Please be hypervigilant when a stranger contacts you online and asks you to share personal information and send money. We are sharing tips today to protect consumers from these heartless scams, and warn U.S. servicemembers that they are at increased risk of being the victims of identity theft," said Attorney General Tong.
The potential that you will be targeted by an imposter is real. Facebook estimates that two to three percent of its users, as many as 60 million accounts, are fake. Relationship scams victimize two people: the person whose identity is stolen and the person targeted for money. These scammers will often target single, widowed and divorced older women, but anyone can be a victim.
Perpetrators often prey on the targets' emotions and desire to help members of the military. They build a trusting relationship over time in order to manipulate victims into sending money for fictitious reasons.
The following tips for spotting relationship scams were compiled by the Office of the Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau:
- Too good to be true: Scammers will use appealing photos and tales of military service to lure victims in. Be honest with yourself about the real reasons this person contacted you. If they seem "too perfect," your alarm bells should go off.
- In a hurry to get off the site: Scammers will try very quickly to get you to move to communicating through email, messenger or phone.
- Cannot meet in-person: Be wary of someone who always has an excuse to postpone meeting you in-person because they claim to be traveling, living overseas, or are in the military on deployment.
- Hard luck stories: Before asking you for financial help, the scammer may hint at money troubles or share a sad story from their past.
Residents should follow these tips from the Better Business Bureau to protect themselves against these types of online relationship scams:
- Don't send money: Never wire money, put money on a prepaid debit card, or send cash to an online love interest. You won't be able to recover your money.
- Make it harder for imposters: Hide your Facebook friends list from public view.
- Pass this information on to friends and family members: You may not have fallen victim to one of these scams yourself, but chances are you may know someone who will be targeted by scammers.
- Take time to verify: If you've been contacted by someone you don't know online, take time to verify the person's identity and think through what is being asked of you to determine whether it makes sense.
- Don't give out your personal information: Be cautious of anyone who asks for your password or login information or tries to pursue a personal relationship.
- Do a reverse image lookup: By using a website like tineye.com or images.google.com you can see if the photos on a profile are stolen from somewhere else. You can also search online for a profile name, email address, or phone number to help verify some of the information.
- Report the account: On Facebook, go to the account in question and click on the three dots near the "Message" icon. You can also report the activity to the legitimate account holder.
- Don't let the fraud continue: Even if the target realizes they have been victims of a scam, the fraud may continue with a new scam pretending to help them get their money back. Residents should take caution against people pretending to be law enforcement officials who may reach out to say the scammer has been caught and the victims can recover their money if they spend several thousand dollars in fees.
Residents can report any scams to the Federal Trade Commissioner by calling the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or go online to file a complaint at ftc.gov/complaint, or contact the Attorney General's Consumer Assistance Unit at 860-808-5420 or file a complaint with the office at https://www.dir.ct.gov/ag/complaint/.