• Louise Roke

Scammers; They Are Out There

Today, I'm talking about people who come into your life who may be a scammer. There's been a lot of publicity about this lately and I've spoken to three or four people that I've met, or woman who have told me their story about being scammed and all of them have told me their story after they've known me for quite some time. It's almost like they don't want to tell anybody because it's very embarrassing because it does involve your emotions; you've actually thought somebody is something and then when you found out they're actually not what you thought they were, it's very, very distressing. So, because my background is varied and one of the things I used to do was crime prevention, I thought I'd mention some things today, because obviously it's a huge problem and it is becoming more and more of a problem. I watched something the other day on 60 minutes or something like that… it was an Australian program. It was an $8 million industry a month and I thought, how much of that is actually getting reported? Always in this sort of crime, so much doesn't get reported. I think the main thing is, when you have a crime happen to you, it should be reported because that is intelligence gathering. If you don't gather intelligence, then we can't put the pieces of the jigsaw together.

These days it is so easy for scammers because they can pretend they are whoever they are and can even put things online so they can create their own profiles. There's a couple of things that you need to do. First of all, you need to slow down. Don't go telling people all about yourself because you actually don't know them from a bar of soap. These people are professionals, so everything you tell them they pick up on and they keep it for later, using it as a reference. They get to know what your soft points are and where your weaknesses are. What I mean by this is these little bits and pieces you tell somebody you don't actually, know forms a big picture. If you're telling somebody you are a nurse or professional of some sort and you work in this area, it's very, very easy for them to start nailing down where your workplace is because of the tiny bits of information you give them. The world is actually a very small place so they can nail down where you live and when you go to work. There's all sorts of things they can gather so you want to make sure you don't give away too much information about yourself. If somebody is asking you questions all the time, you've got to ask yourself, well, what questions are they asking me and why? And if it's questions that may requires more and more information about your life, just pull back a bit and think to yourself, well look, I'd really like to get to know this person more. I'd like to keep some boundaries and some safety areas around me so that if anything happens, I haven't given it all up to this person.

What happened to a couple of my friends, was that one of them had given money to somebody in another country and they were asking her for help. It was a very typical scenario and it's been publicized a lot now, but it still happens. So she got online and found this person and they were messaging each other all the time. Then the person was giving her compliments and saying how lovely she was; she was really lonely at the time and loneliness is the biggest disease in the world. That's what I say. It is the biggest disease in the world because it does need a cure and social media is not curing it. It needs people to reach out to each other and to include people. That's a whole other topic. So she was getting some attention and being told how wonderful she was, how beautiful she was and she was just craving for someone to take notice of her and to give her some attention. It was something to look forward to, maybe there was another life she was going to lead with this person.

So slowly, slowly, slowly she was asked questions and she gave the answers and then she gave more answers and more information about herself until this person really knew her; what he was doing was checking how vulnerable she was; if she lived alone and what sort of network she had supporting her. Then he realized she had come from the UK and she was actually quite alone and didn't really have great support networks or people she confided in. So that made a perfect predator opportunity. So it's all those types of things these people look at. They know how to pick their victims and it's just a number game. It's not just one person they're doing this to, usually it is a number of people so they can multiply their income. Usually they tell you they're working for some amazing community minded organization, what a wonderful person they are and then all of a sudden something happens and gosh they forgot to take their credit card with them or they're stuck in some city or country through work and the person who was supposed to meet them didn't meet them and oh gosh, uh, I've lost my wallet or it's been stolen and oh God, I don't know what I'm going to do! Can you help me? That's how some of them operate; all of a sudden they're asking for help. They're asking for money and of course by this stage, they might've built up a six month relationship with the person and so they are totally trusted and believes they are who they say they are. So she handed over money - it wasn't the first time she tended over money – but she's never really spoken about it to someone because of the embarrassment.

What I was telling you before is that it's very, very important on all crimes, that you do actually report it. There are Crimestoppers and intelligence places you can ring up, because what happens is the computers do an algorithm. For instance in an area if there's a crime happening and a couple of people ring in and get bits of information, it just forms the whole picture of what is actually going on. If somebody's been seen around with maybe a long, blue scarf and somebody else sees a green scarf, it just makes a picture of somebody probably wearing something around their neck. Okay. It might be green, it might be blue, but it forms a big picture of what is happening.

The main thing is to stay safe. You need to really think about where you're meeting people and if something's free, it usually is free for a reason. So for instance, if you are in a dating situation, you're probably better off going to a site that actually charges some money or you're better off going to a site that actually checks people; a credit check. If you're going to something that's free, well I think that's just really open for a lot of scenarios. Anybody who's bored sitting at home or anybody who's criminally minded could look for ‘victims’ on there. Pedophiles may be going on there to target people with children. I'm not saying everybody is bad who goes on these sites and to be totally paranoid, but what I am saying is it is a reality of the world now that people are getting involved in these scams and there is a hell of a lot that go on. I think you just need to slow down the process and be the one that starts asking the questions. If something doesn't quite add up, if something doesn't quite seem right, if this person is constantly changing plans or putting off meeting you, there's more than likely a reason why this is happening. So if you ask somebody a question and they give you a different answer - and these guys are pretty good at sticking to a story - you could always think of different questions. Yes you might be lonely now but getting yourself in a situation that could end in disaster can be life changing in a hideous way. One lady I met who had been scammed, was actually living with the person. He was a total professional and he had actually stolen her identity; he opened up credit cards and bank accounts in her name and it took her years to recover from that.

The other woman ended up handing money over at once and then she did it again. When I spoke to her, she said her gut really told her something wasn't quite right. But for some reason woman tend to see the best, they want the best. They don't want to see this is not going to work out, but you have to keep yourself safe and look at an alternative before going into something and speak to people. If something doesn't add up, if it really doesn't add up, you've got to do something about it. Be wary because there's a lot of people now, in middle age too, who have been working all their lives and they've got big superannuation coming or they've built up a business and have assets like houses. It's such an easy way to make money and scammers are so very, very good at it. If you're not sure, run stuff by me and let's try to see the wood for the trees.

Til next time. take care of yourself.

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