Weirdos’ multitiered online marketing love scams

By Li Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/22 22:23:40

Illustrations: Liurui/GT

"Hi, can we be friends?" I received such a friend request on my WeChat recently. Without knowing how this person managed to get my account, I accepted his request out of curiosity.

At first, he tried to make small talk such as "what are you doing?" or "which city do you live in?" Yet he refused to tell me directly how he got my WeChat account. From his words, it seemed that he really wanted to make friends with me and wanted to know more about me. After a few days, when I almost forgot that he was still in my friend list, he suddenly told me that his grandpa is a farmer who grows tea in the countryside. He asked me whether I wanted to buy some. "A real bargain," he said.

It was a typical internet love scam. Let me explain. With an internet love scam, a friend request can be a disguised as advertising or even a crime.

For example, according to the Wuhan Wanbao publication, a 35-year-old saleswoman in Wuhan, named Xiao Fang met a man on a social media platform in March. The man said he was 36 years old and was a businessman who owned an apartment and a car and was eager to get married - a seemingly perfect match for Xiao Fang. After days of chatting, the man sent her a photo of himself, and Xiao Fang became even fonder of this gentle and handsome man.

That was until one day when the man told her that he found a fast way to make money on a gambling website. It was a sure win if she were to place a bet at an allowed time, the man said.

Xiao Fang tried by investing a small amount of money, because she believed he was telling the truth. Then she borrowed 360,000 yuan ($50,749) from her parents and friends and put it all in the website, trying to get higher profits. Then, unsurprisingly, the man disappeared.

For people like Xiao Fang, they may find that chatting with a stranger is interesting and exciting at first. But unfortunately they will likely fall into a trap.

It is actually harmless to chat with strangers online - and sometimes people may find true love through this way as well - but we really need to remain vigilant when that prince or princess charming makes other requests. For example, think twice before agreeing to meet offline, or giving him or her money in any form. After all, you do not even know whether the other person behind the screen is a male or a female. 

In spite of our own vigilance, it also requires relevant authorities' supervision and regulation to reduce such internet love scams. On many dating platforms, real name registration is not mandatory, and this can be a loophole for swindlers. They can use fake names, fake photos, or even a fake gender to cheat money. In addition to the real name registration system, authorities can also combine the social credit system with these dating platforms for further regulatory oversight. 

For people like Xiao Fang, it may be a heartbreaking to disillusion with their bubble dreams. To avoid this, we need to protect our feelings and money from being cheated. As for the guy who tried to sell me tea, that tea was indeed a "real bargain," if he was telling the truth. But, likewise, who knows whether he will send me the tea or not if I pay him. Or what he will do after he has my address? You can never be too careful.

The author is a commentator with the Global Times.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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