Jamaican scammers don’t just limit their playing field to naïve foreigners via phone calls anymore. They also target us, too! Right here in Jamaica! And they’re using social media to do it. Our vulnerability in what most of us consider a safe space where we find anonymity
was brought to light recently in two incidents reported in the Observer.
In one article, two women describe how they were conned out of thousands of dollars online. The scam used Instagram to entice people to buy high-end cell-phones at marked down prices. When interested buyers contacted the suppliers, they were given an account to deposit all or a portion of the money with a promise the phone would be delivered within hours. But as soon as the payment was made, the account was deactivated and the buyer phoneless.
In the second incident, a young man using the dating app Tinder, arranged to meet with someone he had been talking to on the platform. At the location he was met by someone else who claimed to be taking him to the person he first contacted. Instead, he was taken to a remote location and held at gunpoint for money. While the man barely escaped with his life, the frightening tale is truly one that urges caution.
So how do we protect ourselves against similar experiences? The first is a classic case of being careful when dealing with payment on the internet. It might feel safer than meeting someone in person with cash, but proved just as dangerous. While the sellers were listed as “online-based mobile stores”, they had no physical address on their profiles and that should have been seen as a red flag.
The second case prompts us to be extra wary when using dating apps where catfishing, or pretending to be someone you’re not, is common. When meeting someone from the internet for the first time, always meet in a public place where there are other people. Never follow them to remote locations until you have gotten to know them very well, and always be sure someone else knows your whereabouts. Importantly, reporting such incidents to the police or simply sharing knowledge of such scams could help bring the scammers to justice or prevent future victims from falling prey to the same kinds of experiences.
What both cases truly caution against is trusting just anyone on the internet. While tits relative anonymity might give us a sense of protection sometimes, it also gives others the opportunity to disguise themselves as legitimate entities or interested parties while actually having evil intentions. So take this as a gentle reminder to always keep an eye out, and always trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, take a step back and close that app before social media becomes dangerous.