Ladies, don’t fall for online Romeos

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By Taneesha Pillai Muniandy

Cybercrime is fast growing. More and more criminals are exploiting the speed, convenience and anonymity of the Internet to commit a diverse range of criminal activities that know no borders and cause serious harm, posing very real threats to victims worldwide.

Cyber love leading to fraud is becoming another issue of concern. Many women are said to have become victims as they fall into this trap easily. Cyber love, involving women victims, is increasing every year and has created chaos among people.

After all, who would not be shaken that she might be the next victim of this trap?

Victims involved are mostly single mothers, lonely women, housewives as well as working professionals, aged between 35 and 45. The most targeted ones are single mothers who were said to be snared by African predators through social media like Facebook, emails and Skype.

Most women in this era are tech-savvy. However, their understanding on how to protect themselves on social media is lacking. They tend to “fall in love” easily with the men whom they meet online. These predators trick women with their “sweet-talking skills”.

In 2015, 1,646 cases were reported involving losses of more than RM56 million. The year before, in 2014, cases were reported with losses amounting to RM52 million. There is an astounding 62 per cent increase in such cases. That is indeed a vast increase in just one year.

The worst part is that Malaysia’s National Cyber Security Specialist Agency believes these amounts are just scratching the surface as many more cases may have gone unreported by victims due to embarrassment, as they are often way too ashamed to come forward or go public because of the stigma attached to being scammed by an online relationship.

Statistics also say that loneliness is among the factors why Malaysian women fall prey to cyber love scams. The victims were mostly career women who are proficient in English, thus making them easy victims of the “predators”. These predators are slick operators and load pictures of handsome men who look like actor Brad Pitt, but in reality are Africans.

Then, the victims create a mental image of these men and accept their friendship. Most women lack awareness of cyber scams. They take it too lightly, thinking that everyone online is genuine. They also tend to ignore warning signs during their conversations with these predators.

Dear women, to prevent such cases increasing in our country, appropriate measures can be taken by women who are befriended by these “dirty eyes”. First and foremost, never accept friendship requests from men whom you do not know. Why accept such a relationship when you know there are consequences that may follow?

When you feel your relationship is going in another direction, share it with your next of kin or close friends. They ought to help you from the “threatening hole” that you’re getting into.

Next, don’t send money. Ask the perpetrators more regarding themselves and the reason they need money.

Women also need to be aware that the scammer will shower them with constant attention and again, here, they should always seek counsel and guidance from their true real-world friends.

Always counter check so that you are on the safe side. Also, never reveal too much about yourself, for example your job, salary and domestic issues you might be having. The best thing is always to avoid such acquaintances.

Remember ladies, you are strong enough to safeguard yourselves. Never be afraid to speak up. Do not be embarrassed. After all, you’re not only saving yourselves but also others who are in the midst of being targeted for cybercrime.

Tanessha Pilai Muniandy is a Youth Member of the National Crime Prevention Network Association.

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