In an era where social interactions increasingly take place online, friendship fraud is a growing problem that deserves attention. This form of fraud affects people on a personal, emotional and financial level. This has a huge impact on the victims.
In this article we explain what friendship fraud is, how it occurs and what steps people can take to protect themselves against this type of practice.
What is friendship fraud?
Friendship fraud, also known as catfishing, is a practice in which a person pretends to be someone else online in order to develop a friendship. Often with the intention of gaining financial or emotional advantage. It can start with a seemingly innocent conversation on social media, a dating site or other online platform, where the scammer poses as an attractive person with whom the victim develops a strong emotional bond.
A related form of friendship fraud is investment fraud, where the scammer promises a lot of money, but you first have to transfer some to the scammer. They go very far in this, so alertness is also required here.
How do you recognize friendship fraud?
The fraudster usually creates a false identity using stolen photos or images of someone else. They can give themselves a different name, age, gender or even nationality to appear more credible.
The fraudster invests time in building trust with the victim by simulating a friendly or romantic relationship. This can take weeks, months or even years. They will do everything they can to become your friend, because for them you are a source of income.
Once trust is built, the fraudster can begin asking for ﬁnancial help, often with fabricated emergencies such as medical bills, debt, or a sudden need for money.
A fraudster wants you to exchange your own money for virtual currency (crypto) and then transfer it to a virtual currency account. He or she usually promises to come to the Netherlands, but this never happens. They use this promise to steal even more money from the victim. If they still don’t get their way, they start to behave very pathetically.
In addition to financial exploitation, the fraudster can also use emotional manipulation to further exploit the victim, such as playing the victim, threatening self-harm or emotional blackmail.
How do you protect yourself against friendship fraud?
Be skeptical of online friendships, especially if there is no opportunity to meet the person in real life. Look for irregularities in their story and identity.
Protect your personal information
Never share personal or financial information with someone you meet online, even if you think you know that person well.
If you have any doubts about someone’s identity online, you can ask for a video chat or recent photos to verify their identity. (By the way, this is not always reliable)
Use good security software
Make sure you have good antivirus and anti-malware software installed to protect you from phishing attacks and malicious software.
Report suspicious activities
If you think you are dealing with friend fraud, report it to the authorities and the platform on which you met the person.
You can report this cybercrime here: reporting cybercrime
A few tips:
- Always contact the authorities, even if you have doubts;
- Do not transfer money or virtual currency to a person, as you will never see it again;
- Scammers take their time, so be prepared for this.
It is important to remember that true friendship is based on trust, respect and honesty, and these values should always be upheld, whether online or offline. If it’s too good to be true, then it usually is.