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Internet Romance: Eight ways to avoid being scammed

Following the recent discovery and investigation of Twitter romance scammer Iriodalo Obhafuoso (Odalo), who has been accused of cajoling women into sending him money by claiming a deadly illness, DUBAWA decided to put together some tips on how to notice red flags and not to fall victim to such scams. 

Internet fraud refers to any type of scheme that uses email, websites, chat rooms or message boards to present fraudulent solicitations to prospective victims, conduct fraudulent transactions or transmit the proceeds of fraud to financial institutions or others connected with the scheme.

Scammers will find you on social media, dating or gaming apps and websites. They might also text or email you. They hide behind fake profiles and identities, sometimes of famous people. They’re really good at making you feel special so you believe the relationship is real.

Once you trust them, they have an ‘emergency’ and ask you to give them products or money to help them. Or they ask you to do things for them, like set up accounts or transfer money they give you. Scammers can wait years to build this trust. In the case of Odalo, he waited a week. 

Red flags: Signs to watch out for

They express love immediately and start to move very fast. In the case of Odalo, the victim, Elsa, while narrating the events of the story, said he started to talk about his “health condition” after a week of constant communication. 

Romance scammers will make you feel special quickly, encourage secrecy, and influence you to trust them. They may try to isolate you from your family and friends.

There will always be an excuse why they can’t meet in person or show themselves on camera. They say they live overseas or somewhere remote, or their technology is not working.

Other times, their online profile doesn’t match what they tell you about themselves. Scammers might ask you for sensitive and personal photos, videos or information they could use against you. The scammer gets desperate or angry if you do not do what they ask. They might even threaten to cut off the relationship.

Also, scammers typically avoid interacting with your friends or family members. If they are reluctant to be introduced to people in your life, it might be a cause for concern.

Another thing to note is that if the person’s photos appear overly polished or professional, they might have been taken from stock photo websites or social media profiles of models. Use reverse image search tools to check the authenticity of their photos.

Time zones can be another way to fish out a scammer. Be cautious if the person claims to be in a significantly different time zone that doesn’t align with their supposed location. This could indicate that they operate from a different country to avoid detection.

Steps to avoid being a victim

  1. The first step to not being a victim is to trust your instinct, maintain a healthy level of scepticism, and be cautious when developing relationships online. If something feels off, take a step back and assess the situation critically.
  2. Verify their Identity: Use reverse image search tools to check if the profile picture is stolen from someone else’s social media account. Scammers often use photos of models or other people to create fake identities.
  3. Avoid sharing personal information: Refrain from sharing sensitive information such as your home address, phone number, or financial details with someone you’ve met online, no matter how trustworthy they seem. Do not share personal or sensitive pictures. If you must, do not take the picture with your face showing. 
  4. Beware of sob stories: Scammers often create elaborate sob stories to evoke sympathy and manipulate victims emotionally. Be wary if the person you’re talking to constantly presents themselves as a victim or suddenly has medical emergencies. 
  5. Never send money: Regardless of the reason given, never send money or financial assistance to someone you’ve met online. Legitimate romantic partners will not ask for money, especially if you’ve never met in person. Ask questions about everything. 
  6. Ask questions: Request for pictures or additional evidence to support or back up the story. In the case of Odalo, victims could request pictures of him in the hospital, ask to visit the hospital, and when they start judging, note that it is a red flag. 
  7. Consult friends and family: Talk to your friends or family members about your online relationships. They might offer a different perspective and help you see potential warning signs you may have missed.
  8. Question images and videos: In the era of deep fakes, question the authenticity of images and videos you come across. They can be manipulated to deceive viewers.

Do not rush into decisions. Scammers often create a sense of urgency. Take your time to think before making any financial or personal decisions online. Genuine romantic relationships take time and are based on mutual trust and respect. Stay vigilant, and don’t let your emotions cloud your judgement when interacting with people online, especially on social media platforms like Twitter.

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