By Robert B. Roque, Jr.
February stokes the idea that what the world needs now, more than ever, is love, but beneath the rosy veneer of Valentine’s Day lies a troubling reality — a surge in the insidious world of “love scams.” It is quite a twisted fact that while hearts are entwined in romantic aspirations, the threat of deception looms larger than ever.
Love scams, or romance fraud, have emerged as a bigger threat in the digital age than before e-commerce and social media. This deceitful practice involves exploiting individuals emotionally by feigning romantic interest, followed by anything from subtle financial manipulation to outright extortion.
As the world becomes more interconnected, love scams are booming. They take advantage of the vulnerability that online relationships can foster.
This whole affair caught my attention when I saw the photo of last week’s launch of the #UnmatchPH campaign by Scam Watch Pilipinas. In this group of Internet-savvy individuals was perhaps the only hacker I know — or is he? (I threw this in for deniability): former officemate in the Manila Bulletin, Technews editor Art Samaniego.
It appears he’s one of the group’s co-founders and lead convenors. The group has partnered with the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) to help remind Filipinos of the pervasive nature of love scams.
CICC Executive Director Alexander Ramos underscored the need for caution, emphasizing that while love should be cherished, minds must prevail, especially when confronting illegal scams that target vulnerable hearts.
Touted as the season of love, February can also be a vile opportunity for the heartless, and, as the group pointed out, these scams spare no one. Romance fraud can be a crooked arrow targeting individuals of any age.
But here’s a fun fact, according to the group: Women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community often find themselves at the forefront of this deceptive onslaught.
Jocel de Guzman, co-founder of Scam Watch Pilipinas, revealed that Filipinos must be vigilant against eight love scammer profiles. Similar to red flags, these profiles empower individuals to navigate the dangerous waters of online romance with heightened awareness.
He labels these red flags as the following: “The Sad Boi, Sad Girl,” “The Investor,” “The Seducer,” “The Servicemen,” “The Escort,” “The Blackmailer,” “The Slow Burn,” and “The Predator.” Praises to Jocel for coming up with the suggestive labels that profile the individual tales of each that constitute this dark ensemble of love scammers.
And so Firing Line echoes the call on Filipinos to arm themselves with knowledge, discernment, and vigilance. The battle against love scams begins with understanding the paradoxical nature of February — a month that celebrates love but demands a heightened awareness to safeguard the Filipino heart from digital deception.
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