The FBI Just Saw Catfish/Read Deadspin & They Are Freaking Out, Man
11:45 am, February 15th | by Colette McIntyre
Ladies, delete your online dating profiles, turn off your computers, nail your mailboxes shut and go hide under your bed — the FBI has just found out about all this online Catfish funny business and they have sounded the alarm.
In “Looking for Love? Beware of Online Dating Scams“, a title that feels more appropriate for a Dr. Phil segment than a government press release, the FBI warns us single Internet denizens that not everything is what it seems to be on LonelyandGullibleWithLowStandardsandDaddyIssuesLookingForLove.com:
These criminals—who also troll social media sites and chat rooms in search of romantic victims—usually claim to be Americans traveling or working abroad. In reality, they often live overseas. Their most common targets are women over 40, who are divorced, widowed, and/or disabled, but every age group and demographic is at risk.
Here’s how the scam usually works. You’re contacted online by someone who appears interested in you. He or she may have a profile you can read or a picture that is e-mailed to you. For weeks, even months, you may chat back and forth with one another, forming a connection. You may even be sent flowers or other gifts. But ultimately, it’s going to happen—your new-found “friend” is going to ask you for money.
The FBI goes on to weave a horrifying yarn in which the requests for money never stop. You start cashing checks and picking up mysterious packages all at your foreign paramour’s behest. Soon you’re the leader of a Balkan counterfeiting ring, going by the name “Red-Eyed Jane”, and manufacturing club drugs in what used to be your Sea Monkeys’ magic castle. Or something like that:
And what was the point of all of this? Not love. More likely a money laundering scheme. If your online friend asked sent you checks to cash, asked you to wire money overseas, or told you to send merchandise, there’s a good chance that you were enlisted in some international crime wave. Of course, as the FBI warns, you may also have been the victim of old-fashioned extortion dressed in modern-day digital trappings.
Turns out, everything your know about your OkCupid Lothario is a lie: his photos are bogus, the life stories are fiction, and, worst of all, he lied when he told you that the David the Gnome theme song makes him cry too. Your month-long online relationship is over and what do you have to show for it? Just a new synthetic drug and an Albanian criminal empire.
I know that we have all seen and been fascinated by Catfish and the Manti Te’o story but doesn’t this seem a bit overblown, like it’s the world wide web’s killer African bees? There are many things that go bump in the Internet night — spamsters, trolls, redditors, 40-year-old men pretending to be 13-year-old girls; I think many of us learned how to navigate these treacherous online waters after our first time in AOL’s “Pool Party” chatroom. Online dating happens every day, to great success! For the most part, the worse things you’ll encounter are users with Nice Guy Syndrome, a plethora of creepy messages, and your middle school gym teacher’s profile. But it’s also easy to meet some decent guys who aren’t trying to get you involved in a money laundering scheme. Case in point: I just met a Nigerian prince through my email of all places! I’m sending him a small loan so he can come over to the US and we can make a life together: him, me, and his gold bullion. Never say never!