Home' Scoop : Scoop 68 Winter Edition Contents 82
It could be you...
“I can only blame myself for being so blind,” says
Bryan. “I felt very tragic and stupid, and quite
ashamed,” says Jenny. “I kept on thinking, ‘How
could I have fallen for this?’”
These are common refrains of the scammed.
According to Bill Robinson of Relationships WA,
the counselling service to which Project Sunbird
refers its victims, “there can be a real self-critical,
self-hating, ‘How could I be so stupid?’ feeling”.
But the evidence shows stupidity has nothing to
do with it. In fact, Oxford University researchers
recently concluded intelligent people were more
likely to trust others. Another study examining
romance scams showed that apart from higher-
than-average idealism, no personality traits
increased your risk. “You can’t argue victims are
stupid or greedy,” says Cassandra Cross. “A lot
of victims are highly educated people, who have
managed to avoid fraudulent emails and requests
hundreds if not thousands of times before.”
The Internet can create a false sense of
security, say experts. “When we’re out, our
antennae are up, we’re aware that people
sometimes get robbed or mugged or assaulted,”
says Bill Robinson. “But when we’re home, in
front of a computer, we assume we’re safe.”
Plus, online there are no visual cues like body
language, which we need to form a ‘gut’
reaction to a person, says Cross.
HOW TO PROTECT
YOURSELF FROM SCAMS
1. Meet people face-to-face (although
be sure to take precautions, like
meeting in a public place). This rules
out anyone communicating from the
other side of the world. It also allows
your intuition to work, reading body
language and other visual cues.
2. Be aware scammers are often excellent
at creating legitimate-looking websites
and other documents, such as
passports, birth and death certificates,
visas and certificates of title.
3. Google is your friend. Though
scammers are skilled, they’re not
particularly original – they’ll often
repeat fake names and photos. A quick
Google search of a name can turn up
some damning information. A reverse
Google image search on a photo from
an online profile can show where it’s
been used before.
4. Most social media sites give you an
option to control your security settings.
Always make your profile private and
only accept connection requests from
people you know personally.
5. Don’t volunteer online what you
wouldn’t in real life. “Unless you’re
prepared to go to the bus stop and
scribble it there, why would you put it
on the Internet?” says David Hillyard.
6. Destroy documents. According to
Peter Cutajar, people should shred
them instead of throwing them in the
trash, where they could be intercepted.
7. When making social media or online
dating profiles, be vague. “Give
generic information about your
interests, don’t be specific,” says
Hillyard. Specifics make it far easier for
scammers to form a fake rapport.
8. Never give anyone remote access
to your computer. Scammers have
been cold-calling people, claiming
to be from companies like Microsoft
Support. They ask for access to your
computer to fix a tech problem... and
proceed to mine your personal info.
Says David Hillyard, neither gender is more
susceptible. Nor is age a factor – victims can be
in their twenties or their eighties. But there is
a common theme “They’re at a crossroads or
low point in their life, and they’re particularly
vulnerable at that time to being targeted.”
Even if the victim isn’t isolated, the scammer
will work to ensure they are. “Offenders will
try to isolate the victims from their family and
friends, saying ‘we have to keep this a secret’,
for whatever reason,” says Cross. “Then, when
the victim starts to get suspicious they don’t have
anyone they can go to for help, and they’ll be
blamed for their actions.”
Compounding victim guilt is ‘victim blaming’,
the suggestion that victims are greedy or gullible
(the phrase ‘you can’t cheat an honest man’
springs to mind). According to Cross, victim
blaming can have devastating consequences.
People become afraid to tell their stories, which
exacerbates victimisation, and can lead to severe
emotional problems – sometimes even suicide.
“In terms of online fraud the offenders that
are interacting with victims are highly skilled
people,” she says. “People need to acknowledge
that everyone has a weakness and vulnerability
and if you’re targeted in the right way at the
right time, we could all become victims.
“It could happen to anyone.” S
* Jenny and Bryan’s sur names have been withheld.
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