Sunday, March 18, 2012
Romance Scammers using Fake Webcam Footage
By Pat Williams
A new evolution in romance scams is about to create tens of thousands of new victims. Online Dating Magazine reports that scammers are now using fake Webcam footage to convincingly deceive victims.
Here’s how it works:
First, the scammer spends weeks inside Webcam chat rooms recording footage of an unsuspecting person on different days. The person being recorded doesn’t know they are communicating with a scammer.
The scammer then tries to deceptively obtain photos of the unsuspecting person by email. The scammer may also find photos on Facebook or via online searches.
Finally, armed with photos and multiple days of Webcam footage of the unsuspecting person, the scammer creates a fake online dating profile to lure victims.
“Up until now scams would consist of communication via an online dating service followed by emails and phone calls,” says Joe Tracy, publisher of Online Dating Magazine. “Now scammers can initiate fake Webcam chats with you to further make you believe the lie. They have full control over the footage. They can pause it, make it jump to a point where the person is laughing, type when the person is typing, etc. It comes off as very realistic and impressive.”
Tracy says that this new scam is creating two types of victims: the person being scammed, and the person who was recorded by Webcam and doesn’t realize their footage is being used in scams.
Imagine a guy named Andrew having a Webcam chat with someone he believes is a 28-year-old traveling businesswoman. The scammer memorizes the illicit video and bookmarks, in advance, certain parts of the video for quick access. So Andrew may see a woman in the Webcam typing while the scammer types, “Andrew, look at this new dress I got today.” The video of the woman in the Webcam then stands up to show off the dress. There’s now no doubt in Andrew’s mind that the person he is chatting with is real when in reality it is someone completely different. It’s possible to have a Webcam chat with the “person” on 18 different occasions and they are wearing 18 different outfits. That’s how elaborate this new scam has become.
Tracy warns that the scam can be taken further, with scammers using recorded Webcam sessions of their victim to scam someone else after they’ve gotten the victim’s money.
“This has taken the romance scam to an entirely new level,” says Tracy. “Word needs to get out quickly to warn people about this new development.”
Tracy says that the best way to test whether you are Webcam chatting with a scammer is to innocently ask them to do something and see if they react. For example, type, “What’s that crawling on the wall behind you?” If the person “pauses” or doesn’t look, then that’s a major red flag. When asked to do something they don’t have footage recorded of, scammers will pause the Webcam video and attribute it to a communication problem while answering your question in the chat window.
Online romance scams are the most successful of all online scams, costing victims worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
“Some of these scam organizations are making more money that the big online dating services,” says Tracy. “It’s important to warn people so that they don’t fall prey to these elaborate schemes.”