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Catfishers on the loose, beware!

Catfishers on the loose, beware!
While most is spending more time online with a limitation of outdoor social activities, the predators see this as a valuable opportunity to cash in. - Filepic
THE longer we spend time on the Internet, there is one thing that most people have not realised -- the existence of the Catfishers.

It has been more than 3 months since the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced coronavirus (COVID-19) as a pandemic.

Everyone is seemingly restless, anxious about what is going to happen next. Many cities are on full or partial lockdown to contain the virus from spreading. Undoubtedly. the pandemic has deeply impacted us emotionally, mentally, physically and financially.

With social distancing as the new norm, singletons (and controversially some married people) sign on to dating apps, yearning for the warmth of human connection, or to seek validation from others, all while confining our social activities within homes.
For online dating predators and scammers they wouldn't missed it for the world to get onboard the online dating bandwagon to prey on gullible victims. While most is spending more time online with a limitation of outdoor social activities, the predators see this as a valuable opportunity to cash in.

While I am looking for romantic prospects on the dating platforms, I have also been actively keep my eyes open for the red flags to identify possible scammers roaming about in the online dating landscape.
From the few potential scammers I have interacted with, I noticed that the online dating predators often disguise their intentions in several phases:

Phase 1: Candy Serving
They approach you with ice breakers, under the pretext to get to know you. They often shower you with compliments and words that are not too over the top to convince you of their sincerity.

At this phase, they will likely to consistently stay in touch by checking in on you every day - asking how your day have been, much like the attention anyone would love to receive in the courting stage.

My advice, please do a background check by cross-checking his name, profile image, social media pages and other details he or she may have shared with you. This will help you determine if he or she has questionable intentions.

Phase 2: Lost Love Found
At one point, they will start to paint an image of how they’d like their ideal partner to be - and it doesn’t matter if you have shown any romantic interest.

The more common and classic example I’ve encountered is that the men would start to reveal how he has lost the love of his life to tragic illness, accidents - and it is not until he met you that he found love or know how to love again.

Phase 3: Putting You on the Pedestal
Within a week they would have started giving you pet names - sweetheart, honey, darling, dear in a stream of texts.

To mimic courtship, they will send love songs that they have come across on the Internet - stressing that you are special and is always on their mind.

I have received old school love songs that I felt that they were meant for their love targets of the older generations.

Phase 4: Over the moon
How do you like your relationship materialise? At this stage, the dating predators would paint a future with you - imagining a trip to Paris, a promise of a committed relationship, or to an extent, the prospect of marriage and kids.

I have met some men who would talk about the plans to meet-up in person or to move to the same city as you are in. They will likely also describe themselves as successful businessmen, with business dealings in Malaysia; or that they can make a trip when their shipments arrive in the country, despite the travel restrictions imposed between nations due to the pandemic.

On another bizarre account, there was a man who would like to introduce me to his mother via email correspondence, so that his mother would confirm that she will accept me as his daughter-in-law. It went so far as she would starting asking for your support because the son is away on Humanitarian Rescue and Relief in a war torn country.

While it is obvious that things do not add up, the scammers are betting on having the victims hooked emotionally at this point, with their judgements clouded.

Phase 5: The ATM Machine
Now comes the stage to ‘harvest’ what they have sow. Like a game of chess, they have made the moves to make you fall for their love trap.

There are a few scenarios of which I have observed, of how they go in for the kill, as a final step of the scam.

Case one:
He may have asked you for your home address, to deliver a gift to you. It so happens, that the parcel which contained the gift, did not pass through the local customs. For some odd reason, he can’t make the payment to release the parcel - hence he seek your help to transfer the money to a bank account to do so.

Case two:
A classic one, he would reach out to you proclaiming that he is mugged with no cash in hand, hence he asked for your help to transfer him some money. Miraculously, his mobile phone is not stolen.

Case Three:
His mother is hospitalised, with him stucked at the war zone with no access to transfer any fund. He asked you for help to transfer money to the family to pay for hospital bill, while promising to pay you back when he is back from the humanitarian mission.

Case Four:
The story of inheritance. He is about to inherit 3 million dollars, but he has to fight for the case in a neighbouring country's court. He has to attend the court case in Indonesia, and for some reasons, he doesn’t have enough money to pay for the legal fees to secure the inheritance. He would promise to pay you back once he has received the inheritance.

Phase Six :
It doesn’t matter how many times you refuse their advances, they will be persistent to find a way to at least fish some money from you.

Phase 7: Tables turned
With you not giving in and hold your stand, they will then change their tactic by playing victim - saying how upset they are because you no longer love nor care for them (who said that I did in the first place?)

They will start to feel agitated and their words started to fill with resentment and anger; using words that aimed at driving you thinking you are unworthy of love.

If you still choose to interact with him, I would advise you to walk away firmly. In the event that you noticed the red flags earlier on, please cut off all communications promptly.

The scenarios were some examples I have encountered whilst I was on the dating apps. From Tinder, to Muzmatch, OkCupid to Minder, Bumble and Coffee meets Bagel, the online predators all uses the same modus operandi.

I hope that my story can create more awareness about online dating predators and scammers, to help you identify them early on - both for men and women alike.

Stay safe on the Internet, folks!

* Aini Mastura Abd Rashid is an employee of Astro AWANI who writes on during her free time

**The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of Astro AWANI