03 Feb BEWARE OF “CATFISHING” SCAMS
Dr. Sherry McCoy PhD
is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook . For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BEWARE OF “CATFISHING” SCAMS
Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD – Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program*
Here we are in February 2021! February may be the shortest month of the year, but it never fails to bring us plenty of holidays – Groundhog’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and President’s Day! It’s anybody’s guess as to whether Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow or not on February 2nd, but when Valentine’s Day rolls around on the 14th, everybody wants to fall in love – especially, perhaps, in a pandemic when many seniors are particularly lonely, isolated and looking for companionship online. That’s why it should come as no surprise that “catfishing scams” (aka, “romance” or “sweetheart scams” perpetrated by con artists who set up fake online profiles on dating websites / apps) are one of the biggest money makers for fraudsters during the coronavirus health crisis. Take a look at the following statistics, and I think you’ll see what I mean.
In 2018, “people reported losing $143 million to romance scams – a higher total than for any other type of scam reported to the FTC.” (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2019/02/romance-scams-will-cost-you).
Per the FTC, the number of catfishing scams reported over a 5-year period (between 2015 and 2019) nearly tripled; while the amount of money lost to these types of fraudulent schemes was 6 times higher ($33M in 2015 and $201M in 2019)! (https://www.forbes.com/sites/juliejason/2020/09/04/senior-romance-thrives-in-the-pandemic-7-ways-to-avoid-catfishing-schemes/?sh=2c71e1572708)
Per the FBI’s 2019 Internet Crime Report, “catfishing scams cost Americans a reported $475,014,032, which rose $11,513,271 from the previous year.” (Incidentally, the average amount of money lost per victim in 2019 to catfishing scams in California was $48,891. See the article for more detailed info on catfishing scams in all 50 states.) (https://www.highspeedinternet.com/resources/states-with-most-catfishing-scams#:~:text=Catfishing%20usually%20refers%20to%20online,sometimes%20it’s%20just%20for%20kicks.)
Catfishing fraudsters are often “part of overseas organized crime rings” who regularly cruise dating websites and other social media. These criminals steal photographs of models from authentic modeling websites and create fake identities that are tailor-made to match the interests of their victims. After weeks / months of online courting, the fraudster – posing as someone who has fallen in love with you — asks you to wire her or him cash for some type of emergency or to buy a plane ticket to come see you. But it’s all bogus; all lies. If you send them money, there will be another emergency, etc., ad infinitum.
How do you know if your new online romantic partner might be a catfishing scammer? Here are some RED FLAGS from the FTC (https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2020/02/new-ftc-data-show-consumers-reported-losing-more-200-million)
- “Professes love quickly.”
- “Claims to be overseas for business or military service.”
- “Asks for money and lures you off the dating site.”
- “Claims to need money – for emergencies, hospital bills, or travel.”
- “Plans to visit but can’t because of an emergency.”
If you feel you have been the victim of a “catfishing/romance/sweetheart scam”, report it to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. If you have questions about Medicare fraud / abuse, or believe you have been the victim of Medicare fraud contact the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP*) at 1-855-613-7080. If you feel you have been the target or victim of a scam, report it to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470, or the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357 or https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1.
SAVE THE DATES
SSSAP is Going Virtual in Collaboration with LAPL!
On Wednesday, February 10, 2021 at 1:00 pm, SSSAP is going virtual in collaboration with LA Public Library (LAPL). Platt Library is hosting the first SSSAP Zoom Virtual Program. There will be a Q&A with Ann Stahl (retired Investigator for the Federal Trade Commission) and Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD (writer / actor with SSSAP)! Contact Megan Young, Adult Librarian to get the Zoom link email@example.com.
SSSAP at the 3rd Annual Westside Safety and Preparedness Fair!
On Sunday, March 7, 2021, 11AM – 3PM, SSSAP will have a virtual booth at the 3rd Annual Westside Safety and Preparedness Fair. This is a FREE virtual event for West Los Angeleans to learn from local experts how to prepare for and survive a major disaster. Use this link to register for the event. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/3rd-annual-westside-safety-and-preparedness-fair-los-angeles-tickets-136716393413
STOP SENIOR SCAMS℠ ACTING PROGRAM on YOUTUBE
Although the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) in-person performances are on hold during this time of the coronavirus pandemic, we are committed to continuing our education program through our videos on Zoom.
- Our most recent video, called “Robocalls, Mail Fraud, and Merlin with the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program,” was released mid-October, 2020. Besides taking a look at scams that utilize robocalls and the U.S. Postal Service, this video also explores pet scams and features our friend “Merlin, the Cat!” Watch it here — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA3noym9JPo&t=2s
- For an overview of some of the most prevalent scams that target seniors in the United States, watch our video called “The Top Senior Scams with the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program.” — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp097g7hTUg&t=13s
Please subscribe (free of charge) to the SSSAP YouTube Channel and you’ll be notified when new videos are released! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjFjb-WPPr8KAXq1dlu1EvA Together we can combat fraud!
Remember: You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim!
*Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SSSAP2016/?fref=ts. For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.