Scammers Will Post Your Private Sexts If You Don’t Pay Up

10 years ago, I had a private client in Arkansas. We’ll call him Jon. He was a meaty, blond, tractor-driving farmer who really wanted a wife. He was in his early 30’s but he was the last among his friends to settle down. I wrote his profile. Put him up on Farmers Only. Taught him to write witty emails. But it was a struggle. Jon’s strengths were outdoors, not sitting at his keyboard, trying to flirt with strange women on the Internet.

Then, suddenly, Jon was extremely excited. He had gotten an email from a very attractive woman from Philadelphia. She didn’t say much. Her grammar was poor. But she told Jon what he longed to hear – that she was extremely interested in meeting him quickly. To prove this, she offered her Yahoo address right away.

Never one to be shy about being the bearer of bad news, I told Jon that this was very likely a scammer. She would try to build a relationship with him via email, find excuses why they couldn’t talk on the phone, and then ask him for money.

He wanted to know how I could prove it. Why was I so cynical? Why couldn’t I just believe that a woman from Philadelphia with a stock photography model shot would write to a farmer in Arkansas? Like any good parent or coach, I made my point and let Jon do his thing. Three weeks – and a lot of time and emotion later – he admitted it was a scam.

Scammers prey on the most vulnerable online daters – people who are not getting any attention.

Scammers prey on the most vulnerable online daters – people who are not getting any attention. By giving them attention and raising their hopes up, they gain trust and bilk over $200 million each year from lonely, unwitting singles. According to a recent New York Times piece, “The drive to find a preferred mate is extremely powerful,” said Lucy Brown, a clinical professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who studies the brain activity of people in love. “It’s a reflexive urge, like hunger and thirst,” which can cloud judgment and make people less likely to question the motives of an online match.”

Not surprisingly, the former Nigerian scam has been embraced stateside, which makes it all the harder to catch. When someone seems real and acts real, there’s little reason not to believe. The problem is that the scams have gotten even more vicious. In the past, you could just ignore someone’s request for money. Now, they have you exchanging naked photos and then extorting you by threatening to release those photos.

All the more reason to never engage in sexting with a stranger or send money to a stranger. I wouldn’t think I would need to say that out loud, but evidently, there’s a lot of people who didn’t get the memo.

Your thoughts, below, are appreciated.

 

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Karmic Equation

    So, Evan, Do your mostly-female clients fall for these scams?

    I thought that scammers mostly targeted men.

    Con-men, otoh ( I watch a lot of the ID channel – haha), are the ones who seem to target women.

    They’re real, they’re charming, often relatively attractive, so lonely women get caught in their web.

    I would think that your clientele, in general, are more likely to fall for con-men than scammers.

    Any anecdotes that you could relate in that category that could help women better identify con-men would be an interesting and educational read.

    1. 1.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      My clients get written to by these guys, but we quickly weed them out, so no.

      1. 1.1.1
        Karmic Equation

        It’s good to know you can help your clients weed them out quickly. I suspected as much 🙂

        So, follow up question: HOW do you weed them out? Are there certain key words in their messages that are red flags? In their profiles, etc., that help you weed them out so quickly?

        1. SparklingEmerald

          Also, you can run images through google image search.

          I got a really BOGUS  message on facebook from what appeared to be an attractive middle age man whose FB profile showed him to be from the UK, (I live in the US) had zero friends and his message just sounded like total BS.  So I ran his profile picture through googles image search.  It took me to the website of a German politician and every single picture on his FB page was from this German politician’s website. I sent him a link to the politicians website, and said “You look EXACTLY like this guy, right down to the same striped tie”  He deleted his FB profile.

          Other pictures I have run through google image search have shown up on RomanceScam, a website for outing OLD scammers.

          Karl’s list is spot on.  I was always amazed (not) at these gorgeous models from foreign countries reaching out to me online. (Not just OLD, but through facebook and MeetUp as well)   It seemed the further away from me the guys were, the better they looked, in fact looks wise, the guys seemed to be less attractive the closer they were to my zip code !  There seemed to be a direct proportion to how attractive and modelesque they were and how many miles away from they were.  Happily though,  a very sexy, smart, caring, fun loving, compatible guy close to home found me a little more than a year ago.

        2. Gabri'el

          SparklingEmerald,

          Some of my friends whom I use to model with (mostly the female ones), have told me that their pictures have been repeatedly stolen, and then would show up on a profile of a person in a different city or country.

           

          My personal theory is that Scammers do this because they are afraid someone who may know the person in real life might see the fake profile if they keep it local.

           

           

    2. 1.2
      Christine

      I’m glad I’m not the only one obsessed with the ID channel haha.  I have also seen episodes where female con artists targeted men, in the “Deadly Women” series.  I’d be interested to see whether men or women get targeted more.

      1. 1.2.1
        Karmic Equation

        I rarely change the channel. LOL.

        And my bf finds that channel fascinating as well.

        1. Christine

          I love that channel–you’re lucky yours will watch it with you!   Luckily we’ve managed to come to a compromise on our TV time and avoid couch wars!  I’m one of those people who will yell at the TV and warn them LOL  (but gee, they never listen to me!  My guy is a good sport for putting up with my noise level)

    3. 1.3
      Gabri'el

      Hey Karmic!

      1. 1.3.1
        Karmic Equation

        Hi Gabri’el! Where have you been hiding??

  2. 2
    Karl R

    As soon as I saw the title of this, my first thought was, “And that’s one more reason why I don’t sext anyone.”

    Seriously.  If my wife wants to see my naked body parts, she can see them in person.

    Even if you’re sure that it’s a real-life girlfriend (or boyfriend) getting the picture, do you know what they’ll do with it if (or when) you break up?

     

    Karmic Equation said: (#1)

    “I thought that scammers mostly targeted men.”

    According to this link, 70% of the reported victims are women.  50% are over 40.  (Middle-aged people are preferred, because they have greater resources.)

     

    Karmic Equation asked: (#1.1.1)

    “HOW do you weed them out? Are there certain key words in their messages that are red flags? In their profiles, etc., that help you weed them out so quickly?”

    In my experience, there were multiple red-flags for each person.

    1. They were usually younger than the bottom end of my age range.  Early to late twenties was normal.

    2. If they had a photo, it looked professionally done (like something from a magazine), and they looked like a model.  In all likelihood, they took a picture of a model (from a magazine or website) and used that.

    3. Most lived hundreds or thousands of miles away.

    4. Their emails looked like generic cut-and-paste jobs.  They usually said they liked my profile, or that they had a lot in common with me, but there was no reference to any specific details in my profile.

    5. Their profiles and emails were poorly written (even compared to the average Match.com profile).

    6. Their profile wasn’t ruling anyone out.  (Looking for ages 18-80, etc.)

    7. There was nothing in their profiles that indicated that we had much in common.  In many cases, I was the opposite of what they were looking for.  (They definitely wanted kids.  I never want kids.)

     

    The link that I mentioned earlier lists a number of other warning signs to look for.

    1. 2.1
      GoWithTheFlow

      Karl,

      You are so right!  Absolutely never send nekkid photos!  Even if you 100% trust the recipient, phones are lost and email accounts get hacked.  The most a man would get from me is, “Honey, come over and see for yourself!  In person is way better than a photo!”

    2. 2.2
      Christine

      That’s so true!  Your devoted boyfriend today can turn into your bitter ex tomorrow.

      I once dated someone who kept trying to get me to send him naked photos.  I don’t think he was a scammer so much as just plain horny…but I’m still glad I didn’t give him anything like that.  When things didn’t work out, that fallout was painful enough to deal with.  I didn’t need to add to that, the worry of him publicly embarrassing me!

    3. 2.3
      Gabri'el

      Karl,

      Even if you’re sure that it’s a real-life girlfriend (or boyfriend) getting the picture, do you know what they’ll do with it if (or when) you break up?

       

      I always assumed this was the source of so much of the homemade or so called real wives/couples porn we see on the internet.

       

      Just replace the word picture with homemade sex tape (though we don’t use tapes anymore).

      1. 2.3.1
        Kyra

        I thoroughly believe a good 75% of homemade pornography is recorded and uploaded by one partner without another partner’s knowledge or consent.

        I have never sent a pic via text to anyone I’ve met via an online dating site, G-rated or otherwise. I have never sexted anyone, ever. In public I look behind regularly to be sure no one is following me and videotaping my body to post to the internet at a later time. I prefer any sexual trysts (not that I have any/many lately) to take place in my home so there are no hidden smart phones/cameras/etc. about I am not aware of.

        I trust no one with a smart phone.

        1. Adrian

          Kyra,

          75% seems really high. I would say more like 25%.

           

          Because as Karl R and Gabri’el alluded to,

           

          most likely, these women trusted those men and allowed them to record them having sex.

           

          Read any of the many post Evan did on porn, and you will see that seems to be a really sore spot with many women, so my thinking is

           

          these girlfriends and wives, thought that if they allowed their boyfriend to record them, then he would “only” use the videos of her to be sexually aroused by and not some pornstar model.

           

          Of course, when the relationship ended, the men uploaded those videos out of spite.

           

          Oh and Kyra… Looking over your shoulder every few minutes to see if some random stranger is recording you… Not healthy.

        2. Kyra

          @Adrian,

          My 75% was of amateur/home made porn. Not all porn. So, yes it probably accounts for only 25% of all porn, but I firmly believe 75% of porn uploaded as  “home made” with girlfriends and wives are without consent, with hidden cams and uploaded without partner’s knowledge.

          I’m a special case when it comes to followers/recorders on the street. I have been gifted with/cursed with  VERY large posterior (Kim Kardashian style, just naturally given). I’ve had men follow me for blocks before, into stores where I had to duck for cover and ask employees to call security. So, as soon as people were allowed cameras and recorders in their pockets on smartphones I made special note to keep a heads up more. One of the more abhorrent porn uploads I see growing in popularity is videos men took of women in the gym, store, bank.

          It isn’t healthy, no, but sadly a part of my life and what I need to do to keep myself and my body off the internet if ever recorded without my consent.

        3. AllHeart81

          Kyra – It’s scary how many men I see taking pictures of videos without consent. When I see it, I bring attention to it and they stammer or yell at me to mind my own business. But they always look like guilty little boys because they *know* that it’s not right.

          It’s a shame really. It’s not about sex.  In all honesty, most porn isn’t even about sex really anymore, if it ever was. It’s about power, control and humiliation.

    4. 2.4
      the-sphynx

      Excellent list, Karl. I would add:

      8. Language that mangles common American idiom, and weird grammar, like saying “I am so-and-so from US of A” or starting sentences with “Am”, like “Am a simple man….” I’ve nicknamed it Nigerian grammar. A particularly deadly sign when the dating profile claims their only language is English.

      9. Frequently sporting a touching story such as being a widower raising a child alone, or a lonely soldier overseas looking for a wife. A main profile photo that includes a cute child, or shows a soldier in uniform, is almost always a scammer with a stolen photo IME.

      10. Over-the-top but nonspecific romantic compliments in the first email, maybe even suggesting love or soulmates.

      11. Rushing to get you off the dating website and communicating via private email or texting to their phone #, often by sending their email and phone # in the very first message.

  3. 3
    La Miss

    Oh this is a sad one that I’ve seen firsthand. Our book-keeper at work has had a Nigerian ‘girlfriend’ for the last 8 years who he has never met. It beggars belief but it happens. He sends ‘her’ money every month and for the past year that he has been working with us she has been planning to come to visit him in London but never appears. There was a problem with the travel agency, with her passport, then her visa application, then she was kidnapped on the way to the airport, then she was in hopspital and in need of medical care. It gets so elaborate that her friends would call to say they had put up most of the money she needed for X but there was still some missing so could he send the rest. No lie, I never understood how people actually fell for these scams but I’ve seen it now. This is a man who has had to borrow money from me because he is down to his last tenner, he is constantly broke, yet he will send money to a stranger he’s never met. The anger I’ve felt at these heartless, faceless people who prey on his loneliness and want, you think finally they’ll stop, they have to take pity on him, but they never do, as long as he pays up they will keep going, 8 years and counting. And of course he thinks of the sunk costs, ‘it’s been so long I just have to see it through to the end, another month and I’ll know for sure!’ I’ve tried listening quietly, tried to gently point out the flaws in their lies, tried called him a fool, cried, everything I can think of to make him see and he still chooses not to. Finally I think I understand that it has to be a choice, he’s not being fooled per se. Maybe he’s choosing to ‘buy’ hope and fantasy, because the truth is that he is a man in his 50s who has never had a real life girlfriend, and who has one Facebook friend let alone any real ones. The saddest thing is that if only he spent all that money (which must be thousands over the years) on himself, a therapist, a stylist, maybe even a dating coach, he could have a real life girlfriend, but he mustn’t think he’s worthy.

    1. 3.1
      Gabri'el

      La Miss,

      A fellow American exchange student and I was at a pub in London playing pool, when in walked the most sexiest woman “he” has ever seen in person.

       

      They only met once, but now his story is just like your co-workers. She is Romanian, and was only in the country for a week, now months later, he is still sending her all his money, while she always has a reason he can’t come see her or visit the UK again. The hospital scam must be common, because that is her favorite.

       

      Like you, it both saddens me and drives me crazy, because this is a really smart guy, but he can’t see he is being used.

  4. 4
    Maria

    I appreciate the tip to google search the profile photo.  Yes, even Katz clients can get a scammer but blocked quickly.

    1. 4.1
      Lisa

      I saw this on catfish, to do the google image search.   I have never personally been scammed but I am skeptical by nature.  If you have never seen the show catfish on MTV I highly recommend it they have a lot of good tips.   Another thing is when you see people that have only one photo and if the photos look professional or edited.   I always uses Evan’s tips of meeting in person early on to confirm identity too so maybe that is how I always avoided it. I was asked if I was a fake profile several times as well.   I guess it happens a lot.

  5. 5
    Karmic Equation

    Thanks for the tips. I was just curious. When I was online dating, I didn’t get any messages that resembled scammer messages that were described in Karl‘s and others’ posts.

    I wonder if scammers don’t target Asians? We are a very skeptical and tight-with-money culture, so it wouldn’t surprise me if scammers avoided us like us like the plague as we are probably the unlikeliest race to send money to strangers. Add to that, I believe most Asians (Chinese ones anyways) are not as “romantic” in general as other races. We are very practical and pragmatic and highly unlikely to be in a LTR relationship with someone we never met. Never mind want to send money to him/her.

    Or perhaps my profile could have deterred them? My profile was lighthearted and happy, rather than dark and deep. I didn’t mention anything about looking for my soulmate or “partner in crime” <rolls eyes>. My online profile probably didn’t meet their criteria for being an easy target.

    Thank goodness!

    1. 5.1
      Christine

      I’d be interested to see a breakdown of who gets targeted most often, just curious.  I never got scammer messages either but am not sure what it is–being Asian, my profile, or what.  My guy, also Asian, never got anything like that either.  He wanted to meet me a week after emailing.  Neither one of us would have entertained a “relationship” with anyone we hadn’t met in the flesh!  The other Asians I know who online dated (i.e. my sister and brother-in-law, friends, etc.) never got scammers either.

      But for all we know, there are Asians who do get targeted and fall for these, but don’t report it out of embarrassment.  I remember an episode of the ID channel I saw where a lot of women didn’t report a con man, because they were too embarrassed to admit to the police they fell for him.  That’s how he got away with it for as long as he did.  Especially with the sexting, there would be even more embarrassment about reporting it.

    2. 5.2
      the-sphynx

      I don’t know if being Asian has anything to do with it, unless you were using lesser-known dating sites that Asians are more likely to frequent. But I can tell you right now that the wording of your profile has zip to do with whether a scammer will try to target you. They cast their nets WIDE (a 46-year-old man saying he’s seeking a soulmate 35-92, for example) and don’t slow down long enough to read any profiles, just maybe glance at the age and gender. Sometimes they cut and paste for themselves a profile that was clearly written by someone of the opposite sex, and forget to change the genders around. So they are not even reading their own profiles carefully, let alone anyone else’s!

      One likely possibility for not being targeted is if you are young, under 35 or 40.  Scammers favor older people who are more likely to have savings or inheritances, be more desperate in the search for love than twentysomethings, and even be old enough to be increasingly senile or afflected with Alzheimer’s, hence particularly vulnerable targets.

  6. 6
    Karl R

    Karmic Equation said: (#5)

    “Or perhaps my profile could have deterred them?”

    I doubt it.  I never got the impression that they read profiles.  I think they filter by check boxes.

     

    I got fewer when I listed my job type as “self-employed”.  I got more when I listed my job type as “legal/financial”.  I suspect the latter sounds more like I have money.

     

    Christine asked: (#5.1)

    “I’d be interested to see a breakdown of who gets targeted most often,”

    Based on my research, the main criterion is whether you have money.  Widows and widowers often have inheritances.  The disabled get disability checks.  Middle-aged people have higher incomes.  Senior citizens have retirement savings and social security checks.

    Here’s a pie chart indicating the age breakdown by sex.  As I mentioned earlier, women report getting scammed more than twice as often as men.

     

    I didn’t see anything that indicated that race was a factor.  Though I’m sure scammers have their own stereotypes about which races are wealthier or more gullible.

    1. 6.1
      Christine

      Thanks Karl, that’s interesting and I was just curious.  Perhaps it was my age that was a deterrence, being in my 30s.  I also don’t fall into those other categories like having inheritances, disability checks, etc.  I do have some retirement savings, but presumably not as much as an older person who has been saving for a longer period of time.

       

       

       

  7. 7
    Stephanie

    I’ve never seen this one before, but the profile is allegedly written by someone on the opposite side of the US from where I live:

    Hi, how are you doing? I have found my woman on here, lucky me, and I am about to delete my profile, but my bestfriend spotted your profile, and is interested in you, his name is *******, his email is ******** at g mail dot com, his phone number is***-***-****, he doesn’t have an account here that’s why he is using my account to contact you. you could contact him and see if he is cool, wish you the best. He is a really nice person, and he has a good heart, he doesnt have an account here that is the reason he is using my account to contact you, good luck to you two.

    I’m extremely tempted to bait him with a Google phone number, but “sadly” I’m struggling to keep up the momentum with several real, appealing guys I’m corresponding with 🙂

    (name, email address, phone removed since I figure there’s a 1/6.02×10^23 % chance that this really IS a clueless guy hoping to set up his friend 🙂 )

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