Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Scammers abound

I received a friend request on Facebook from someone I'd never heard of.  We had no friends in common and I couldn't place him, so I just deleted it.  That happens once a month or so.  No big deal. Just requires a delete.  We know they are scammers and we just delete and sometimes "report" them. A couple weeks later, today, the same person (or someone(s) using the same name) contacted me through google plus.  I still don't know him, still have no friends in common that I can tell. This time he was required to leave a message of some kind and the message he left was, "hi barbara....i must confess you really look amazing.hope we could femiliarize sometime."

Uh huh. According to his google plus profile he's an ad consultant in San Francisco.  I don't know how he found me.  I don't know what in that tiny little blurry picture of me on the beach that serves as my google plus image and does not show my face with any kind of clarity would look "amazing".  If he had read anything I'd written, he would know that I don't really care about looks that much anyway and would be much more likely to respond had he commented on something I had written. I'm not interested in being "picked up" by a stranger, and even in that situation I would prefer being admired for my thoughts or strength, for my faith, for ... well for anything other than looks. Additionally, I would assume that ad consultants would need more than a basic understanding of the English to use words as well as how to spell them.  Maybe I'm wrong here, but since I've never seen the word "familiarize" used in this way before, let alone spelled in that interesting way, I'm guessing he is not "for real."  He probably lives somewhere outside of the United States (I read that most of the pick up scam artists going after women are in Nigeria, and most of the pick up scam artists going after men are from Russia...don't know if it's true, but it would explain the interesting "accents").  "He" is probably a team of folk taking turns working these scams (another article I read).  And this is how they make their living, sending notes and forming "relationships" with single women only to have a 'grandmother suddenly die which means they need money, just to borrow temporarily, for the burial and for the...', or 'I have money to give you, just give me all your bank information and I will deposit it in your account."

I have to admit that if I wasn't afraid he might be dangerous or that opening a message from him might open much more to my computer and my life than I could handle, I would be curious.  I would be curious to see how the scammer operated.  I would be curious to see what kind of tactics he thought he could use to scam me out of money I don't actually have, or whatever it is that he wants. I also have to admit that I would enjoy being flattered and charmed and kissed up to.  I know what I have to give, and what I don't have.  I wouldn't be scammed that easily.  These scammers don't seem very sophisticated so I think I'd have a pretty good chance of outwitting them.  I'm the person who goes to the 90 minute "time share" sale and walks away with nothing.  I'm the one who can spend all day at the Home and Garden show or at the County Fair and not buy a thing.  "No" is easy for me when it comes to spending money or giving personal information such as my mother's maiden name, my kids' names or my social security number.  I am not afraid of that.  I am afraid of opening an email that opens up viruses on my computer or exposes my children to risk in some other way.

But either way: no.  I have too much integrity to play that game.  Still I'd be lying if I said I wasn't curious...

However, more than curious, I found myself sad.  I am sad that there are people who do this to other human beings.  I am sad that there is such a need that some people believe the only way they can make money is to use and abuse others.  And I am deeply sad that there are enough desperate and lonely people out there who would respond to something like this that choosing to act this way has become a lucrative career choice.  At some level I guess all of us are lonely.  At some level I think most of us would like a "friend" who flatters and charms us.  It isn't worth the cost, and it is a lie, not a real friendship, but I get the appeal, I understand the pull to respond to an invitation like this.

So in the face of this, what can we do?  I think it is a call for all of us to reach out more to those who are lonely.  The best way to prevent something like this from happening is to offer people real relationships instead, to be present and loving even to those who are "unappealing", to search for the human core in every one that unites us and makes each of us valuable and worthy of being loved. Rather than feeling sad that people give in to these scams, we can actively work to prevent their success just by offering friendship to those who are lonely.  It starts with a smile and a "how are you?"  Not so very hard.  And we may find ourselves blessed through the effort, making a friend with depths we didn't imagine, growing in getting to know people who are different from us.  That, I think, is an effort worth making.