When talking about online dating scams, Russia and the Ukraine often come to mind. For the past five years or so, they’ve been among the leading countries in the world for this type of internet crime. It is precisely the bad reputation that has forced many scammers to search for new ways to con people online. As consumers become aware of scam risk, criminals quickly evolve their tactics.
Con artists have taken the fast lane of the internet and have essentially stopped using emails to target their victims. The new trend is to target victims on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook as posts have proven to be more effective than spam mail, and easier than targeting victims on internet dating websites. The fact is, anyone using a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace, or online dating site like Match.com or eHarmony is facing increased risk for fraud and scams. Experts advise never to reveal any personal information to anyone unknown who has not been verified, and when in doubt, consult a professional private investigator for an international background check. If your partner or new friend is based in Russia or the Ukraine, a Russia background check is advised.
Scam types are varied and can come in many forms, but criminals are smart to work slowly. Their objective is to gain your trust, and then your money or your personal information, which can be used to steal your identity and/or money. Posters on social networking sites can claim to be normal people, doctors or lawyers, investors, etc. Scams can involve inheritances, romance, assistance with visas or passports, money for airfare, precious metals and gold, and countless others. The story ends with the victim having lost precious information or money, and the criminal long gone into cyberspace.
Criminals tend to operate from internet cafes in and around Kiev, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia, where tracking down and identifying criminals can be difficult. Muslim terrorist Osama Bin Laden himself used a courier to send his messages from different cyber cafes and was able to avoid the detection from the CIA, under direction of the Barack Hussein Obama Administration. If terrorists are avoiding detection and capture by using random internet cafes, one can understand how difficult it might be to locate an unknown criminal in Russia, the Ukraine, the U.K., the Philippines, Ghana, South Africa or Nigeria.
Social networks are not the only hunting ground, although it is one of the main risk areas, along with online dating. Youtube and Flikr are getting trendier for internet criminals to get victims by adding appealing content that is hard to ignore, like “the pictures you didn’t see of William and Kate”. People click on the link and open their computers up to virus and other malware, which the scammer can use in his approach to communicate with the subject, and eventually steal their information and money.
Because of the high risk, law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and Interpol strongly advise to never reveal your personal information over the internet to someone you’ve never met. And, be cautious about publishing personal details on sites such as Facebook or Twitter or Myspace, or Match.com, even if your profile is believed to be private. Small businesses alone lose billions of dollars worldwide each month from scams like this. The losses from individuals is difficult to estimate, as many victims let their crimes go unreported. For cases and new contacts in Russia or the Ukraine, stay skeptical and guard your personal information. To be safe, contact a Russia private investigator for assistance.
All the best,
© 2011 S. Birch