Facebookery: Scammers Targeting Middle-Aged, Single Women

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The holiday season brings friends and family together, but it also brings out the scammers. Because they know the holidays can be a lonely time for single, middle-aged women, scammers are out in force to target those women.

Many women of a certain age who list their marital status on Facebook as single, divorced or widowed find themselves inundated with Facebook friend requests this time of year from scammers who set up fake profiles, posing as single men looking to meet nice women. They will frequently say they’re in the military, or recently retired from the military, possibly because it’s easy to find lots of photos of attractive, fit military men online and because many people will instinctively trust and respect members of the military.

 

 

I’m sure there are plenty of females (or males posing as females) attempting to victimize single/divorced/widowed men on Facebook too, but being female I don’t have any experience with that scenario. The same general scam details I’m about to report here are probably also applicable to middle-aged, single men who use Facebook.

 

What’s the Scam?
The scammer befriends you, begins an innocent-seeming messaging or email exchange, then gradually turns the talk to romantic. Once he’s reeled you in, he springs the trap by asking for money in a way that doesn’t seem like asking for money. Common strategies include:

“I’d love to fly you out and put you up in a hotel so we can meet, but the airline/hotel requires account information for the passenger/guest.”

“Great news! I closed the multi-million dollar deal here in [some third-world country where phone service is spotty] and I can’t wait to come back to the States so we can finally meet! Unfortunately, I was pick-pocketed, but it should be no problem to get my passport and ID replaced at the embassy. If you could just wire me a couple hundred dollars for train fare and something to eat, I’ll have this cleared up by tonight.”

“Maybe we could meet for a cruise. A friend just told me about a great deal on some cancellations of first-class cabins on a romantic cruise on the Mediterranean, but we’d have to provide our financial details and confirm the reservation right away, the open cabins won’t last long.”

You get the idea. Anytime someone you don’t really know or have never met is asking for money or your financial account details, no matter how logical or reasonable it seems or how much it seems like you’ll be immediately reimbursed, RUN!

 

 

How Can You Spot The Scammers?
In the past two days alone, I’ve received EIGHT Facebook friend requests from men I’ve never heard of. Their profiles all feature the same, tell-tale signs of the scam:

1. Very sparse content

2. Facebook account only recently opened

3. Short or nonexistent friends list, often consisting exclusively or mostly of single, middle aged-women – note that because the scammers are targeting that demographic, they may have already succeeded in tricking one or more of your FB friends into accepting their friend request in an attempt to build trust and legitimacy

4. Generic/common name that would make it difficult to Google for real-life details

5. Only a handful of photos that again, are very generic and in some cases could even pass for stock photos (some scammers actually use stock photos, others simply steal profile pics from other, legitimate profiles)

6. Marital status of widowed (very popular pick for the scammers, intended to inspire sympathy in women), single or divorced

7. Employment status of retired or self-employed (meant to imply wealth, and also makes it harder to track down any real-life details), military, or something super-generic like “sales”, “construction”, “real estate”, “business”, etc.

 

Protect yourself. Don’t accept friend requests that come out of the blue from opposite-sex people you’ve never heard of. More than likely it’s a scam, and if it’s not, you could always wait a few months and check back on the profile. In all likelihood you’ll find it’s mysteriously vanished within a couple months or less.

 

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One Comment

  1. Comment by susan1859:

    Thanks for the heads up! I’m very careful & my security settings are tight, but, after reading your article, I went in and changed my relationship status to the 3 dots at the top of the list, so now it doesn’t show any relationship status. They should have “it’s none of your business” or “why do you ask?” options. LOL