I’ve been struggling for a while now with Facebook’s bloody-minded insistence on shoving “friend suggestions” at me every time I log in. I’m a bit obsessive compulsive about some things and friend suggestions are one of those things. I need to deal with them by either accepting or rejecting them so they will go away but they won’t stay rejected and it is driving me absolutely bonkers!
Every time I log on I sit there clicking delete over and over and over again for these “suggestions” until they are gone. Then I go look at the comments on someone’s post, go back to my feed, and voila – the “suggestions” are all BACK! ALL of them! ALL. OF. THEM! It’s killing me!
You can hide suggestions but that doesn’t last long. What you can’t do is opt out of receiving friend suggestions altogether!
I was somewhat resigned to the never ending stream of friend suggestions until I followed a few celebrities on Instagram and Instagram started doing the same thing. I opened an Instagram account ages ago but I’ve never posted anything and I didn’t bother using it so I wasn’t aware they do friend suggestions too until recently. Now they are shoving friend suggestions at me as well and I don’t seem to be able to opt out of those either. SIGH!
I’m pretty sure these friend suggestions are a rich source of pickings for scammers. Sometimes friend suggestions are for people who are linked to my friends or family members but many are just completely random strangers chosen by Facebook for reasons known only to Facebook.
I’m guessing that’s how “Joe” found me.
Some time ago I got a friend request on Facebook from someone named “Joe”. Joe and I had no Facebook contacts in common so I had a quick look at his profile to see if I could figure out why he was asking to be my friend. His account sported some pictures of a reasonably attractive looking man who appeared to be aged between 30 or 40 but there were no clues as to why he was contacting me.
I messaged him.
“Who are you and why are you contacting me?”
“I saw your picture and you look like a lovely lady. I would like to get to know you better.”
My BS radar started wailing like a cop car in a high speed chase. I’m over sixty, overweight, and over romance! Good looking young men who are looking for love do NOT chase ugly old ladies on Facebook! They just don’t and anyone who thinks they do is exactly what the scammers are searching for! The icing on the BS cake “Joe” was trying to feed me is that the picture he saw, the one he said looked like a “lovely lady”, is actually a picture of a pig!
My profile picture is the Make it Possible flying pig.
I didn’t waste another second on him. I blocked him and saved us both the wasted time.
The other night we got a call at work from a young man who didn’t react that way to the person who set out to scam him and the result was blackmail. He was being blackmailed and it was making him feel suicidal. I did a bit of research and it prompted this blog entry.
Some background information about me – I currently work as a supervisor on a help line. My job involves being called in by telephone counsellors if I’m needed. The counsellor might get stuck during a call and run out of ideas about what to say to the caller or how to help them. I help the counsellor by coaching them through the call. I listen to the call on a separate headset and write suggestions to the counsellor about what to say to the caller, what to ask them, where to refer them and so on.
Counsellors also call me in if there is any risk to the caller or to anyone else. If a caller is talking about suicide the counsellors have to call me in. They also have to call me in if the caller is threatening to harm themselves or someone else, if the caller is disclosing a crime, or is talking about any kind of risk to a child. Whenever I am called in it is my job to decide if the call needs to be traced, if an ambulance needs to be sent, if a report needs to be made to Child welfare, or if police need to be sent to check on the safety of the caller or someone else.
When we got the call from this young man he was beside himself with fear and could see no way out apart from suicide. He had met a “woman” on a dating site and she had persuaded him to join her on Skype for mutual masturbation. The person had showed him a video which he thought was “her” engaging with him in this activity but there was no female and his behaviour was recorded. The scammers sent him a copy of the video and were demanding a thousand dollars. They told him if he didn’t pay they would send the video to all the people in his Facebook friends list and that list included his boss, workmates, friends and family.
The threat to send incriminating material to contacts is not new but it used to be a bluff. I have had this kind of threat dozens of times by email and it goes like this:
“I am well aware [password] is your pass. Lets get right to purpose. You may not know me and you’re probably thinking why you are getting this email? None has compensated me to investigate about you.
Well, I placed a malware on the adult streaming (pornographic material) site and you know what, you visited this web site to experience fun (you know what I mean). When you were watching video clips, your browser started out operating as a Remote Desktop with a key logger which provided me with accessibility to your display screen and cam.
Immediately after that, my software gathered every one of your contacts from your Messenger, social networks, as well as e-mailaccount. After that I created a video. First part displays the video you were watching (you’ve got a fine taste haha . . .), and next part displays the view of your cam, & its u.
There are a pair of alternatives. We are going to analyze the solutions in aspects:
Very first choice is to neglect this e mail. In this situation, I most certainly will send out your actual video to all of your personal contacts and then just think regarding the disgrace you will definitely get. Keep in mind if you are in a relationship, precisely how it can affect?
Number 2 choice will be to pay me $1000. We will name it as a donation. In this scenario, I most certainly will right away eliminate your video recording. You can continue on with your daily routine like this never occurred and you are never going to hear back again from me.
You’ll make the payment through Bitcoin (if you do not know this, search for “how to buy bitcoin” in Google).
BTC Address to send to: 1NpGFJuMturzgeEnsHHGKUg5i9AnbWjCN3 [case-SENSITIVE so copy & paste it]
In case you are curious about going to the authorities, okay, this email message cannot be traced back to me. I have taken care of my actions. I am not looking to charge you a whole lot, I simply want to be compensated.
You have one day to make the payment. I’ve a special pixel in this email message, and right now I know that you have read through this email. If I do not get the BitCoins, I will, no doubt send your video to all of your contacts including friends and family, co-workers, etc. Nonetheless, if I do get paid, I’ll destroy the video immediately. If you want evidence, reply with Yes and I will send out your video recording to your 11 friends. This is the non-negotiable offer that being said please don’t waste mine time and yours by replying to this email.”
These emails don’t worry me because I don’t go to porn sites and I’ve never gone to them so it isn’t possible for anyone to have pictures or videos of me on a porn site. A lot of people do go to these sites, however, so these emails can, and do, scare them enough to make some of them pay up. It only takes one person who pays to make it worth a scammers time to keep sending these emails.
The latest version of this scam is more serious, however, as there’s no bluff involved and that’s what happened to the young man who called us. He met the scammer on a dating app and he’s not the only one who has been caught by a catfish. Romance scams have been around for ages now. We are all familiar with the scammer who persuades his victim, male or female, to send money to bail him or her out of trouble or help them come for a visit and so on but these scams are a little more vicious than those. At the end of the day those scams rely on the victim choosing to give their money to the scammer. These scams are an attempt to force the victim to pay the scammer.
The scammers are all over all the dating sites now.
They are striking up relationships with people on sites like Tinder, Grindr and they are talking people into exposing themselves so they can record or screen capture the activity and use the video’s or images to blackmail them.
These days the scammers are not necessarily even human!
These scammers have been around for almost as long as the internet has been up and running I suppose. The problem is that every year there are more and more of them and they are infiltrating more and more social networking sites.
They are everywhere gathering images and biographies to use from all over the internet and searching for potential victims on all platforms including Facebook, Pintrest, and Instagram.
You may have already come across one like I did with Joe.
If someone has reached out to you don’t assume they are real. It’s easier to get over a scammer BEFORE they have your heart or compromising images of you so do some checks. Start by doing a search for their name and picture on Social Catfish.
In the meantime, if anyone starts a petition asking Facebook and Instagram to allow users to opt out of friend suggestions, let me know and I’ll be the first to sign! I searched for how to start a petition and found a tutorial on how to do it. When I clicked on the tutorial it redirected me to a site offering me bad girls to f*ck so that’s put me right off!
No doubt scammers don’t want us to turn off friend suggestions but the fact is that anything we can do to stop them will, quite literally, save lives!
The young man who called us was talked out of his impulse to suicide – I hope – but it’s a fact that others have died because of these people!
If you have been scammed already there is a site for survivors called just that – Scam Survivors. It might not help you but you might be able to use it to help others.