Valley Journal Advertiser

Be my friend, please

- WENDY ELLIOTT elliottwen­dy902 @KingsNSnew­s Wendy Elliott is a former reporter for the Kentville Advertiser and the Hants Journal. She lives in Wolfville.

Online scams must be as old as the internet, but certainly Facebook has made it far easier for scammers to victimize users who are longing for connection.

As nobody seems to be able to stop it, individual­s have to beware.

Lately I've getting a friend request on pretty much a daily basis from various dudes I've never heard of. Usually if I don't recognize the name I hit delete. Something recently made me check out this stream of masculinit­y.

The first mature male said he'd “Studied at Studied at Went to University of United State Los Angeles California.”

No points for grammar for that fellow.

The second man was a Robert De Wolf, but he wasn't a local.

De Wolf posted an intenseloo­king self-portrait holding an adorable little dog. Apparently, he'd

University studied something at the of Glasgow, but he lives in Belgium. Just two days later one Paul Vanden requested my friendship and posted exactly the same photo as the De Wolf guy. Since my Facebook image is my dog Zorro, I guess cute canine content was a priority.

Vanden indicated he'd gone to university and lives in Antwerp, Belgium. Glasgow and Belgium seem to be a commonalit­y after getting a request the same week from a Louis Van Steen in Antwerp.

Van Steen said he worked at an energy company I'd never heard of and he only posted one image from 2021. Very sparse in the text and photo realm these guys.

That's because new profiles don't have to use the name that these dudes go by in everyday life. Then there was Felix Nicolas, who's supposedly from Dublin, but he posted an image where the background looks like a takeout in a California landscape.

Phoenix resident Alex Thomas

displayed a lovely image of his mother taken way back in 1937. That would likely take in the sentimenta­l types on his scamming list — or not.

One of these masqueradi­ng men even suggested he is already in a relationsh­ip. They're all totally bogus and Facebook isn't even a dating app. I've never posted a bio on my Facebook page, but probably I should boast about being married to the same amazing guy for over 40 years. Maybe then the stranger faces would evaporate.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has reported that last year Canadians lost a total of $530 million to fraud in various schemes, scams and investment swindles. The centre noted that the second most reported scam in this country is the romance scam, with 1,056 Canadian victims losing $59 million in 2022.

A few years ago, I knew a nurse who got scammed by a man from Africa. She arranged for him to immigrate, but as soon as he obtained Canadian citizenshi­p he walked out of her life. Needless to say, her heart was broken. There had been no real romance and she was left stranded.

The BBC recently posted a story about a woman who was taken for a whopping $150,000. Linda Young said she and her scammer bonded via daily emails, phone calls and messages over a shared love of dogs. Then he wanted money for investing toward their supposedly shared future. She never got a cent back.

Two sisters, Ginny and Penelope Skinner, have co-written a BBC drama series on the topic called

The Following Events Are Based on a Pack of Lies. The two cowriters spoke with real life victims in their research process. It sounds fascinatin­g.

We are right to be suspicious of requests from strangers — especially when money is involved.

Be wary of anyone you have only recently met online.

I could see profile photos may not be genuine. When I tried doing an image search on Paul Vanden/ Robert De Wolf, all I learned was that the cute dog is a Yorkshire terrier.

There is another TV show called Catfished about how those alluring profile pictures hardly match reality. Catfishers create elaborate online profiles using pictures of models to hook victims looking for love online. They may send out random friend requests to huge numbers of people before finding that one willing victim.

Scammers these days have plenty of means to hoodwink the innocent, especially because of recent advances in the technologi­cal landscape. Voice simulation, face generators and ChatGPT can all aid these criminals, so do some sleuthing.

 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D ?? When reviewing friend requests on social media, always be skeptical. Paul Vanden and Robert De Wolf both used the same profile photo, posing with this super cute Yorkshire terrier.
CONTRIBUTE­D When reviewing friend requests on social media, always be skeptical. Paul Vanden and Robert De Wolf both used the same profile photo, posing with this super cute Yorkshire terrier.
 ?? ??

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