Readers who turned to my column on Boxing Day will have seen my review of the most common complaints I investigated in 2021. I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone that scams are at the top of my list. files. I warned that this trend is likely to continue in 2022.
So I start this year with your case, involving a nasty scam that I have never encountered before. I call it “friendly fraud”. It works like a romance fraud, a more common scam, but the authors keep the communications platonic.
Equally tricky, criminals go to great lengths to gain trust by asking personal questions to build a quick connection. They develop a believable backstory, supplemented by photographs to support it.
With romance scams, the connection usually starts through a dating site with the conversation quickly moved to social media such as WhatsApp. This keeps messages away from the protective eyes of websites, leaving no evidence of what will follow: The victim gets cheated of money.
Love scammers target those seeking love, but the network is expanding to include those who simply feel isolated during the pandemic.
It is not known how the woman from Hong Kong stumbled upon your WhatsApp account. However, her modus operandi followed the same path used by the amorous con artists, with the fraudster using social engineering to gain trust (you received photos of her walking her dog, which you later discovered to have been extracted. Asian model’s social media pages).
Soon after, the…