mid-day editorial: Seems too good to be true? It probably is

Yesterday, this paper carried a detailed front-page report about the many women who have lost money in the lakhs and crores after being duped online by conmen posing as Mr Right.

The serial fraudsters had a pattern about them. First, they chose their targets carefully — professional women in their thirties and forties who were earning well, and had a lot of money.

Second, they spun tales of hardship. There were dramatic tales — some said they had relatives who were CIA agents — and international angles were played up, with many professing to be in the US or UK. Then, of course, came the tragic takes.

What was similar, however, about all these cases was that soon after professing love and giving promises of marriage, demands for money began. These conmen, it turned out, usually had a history of cheating so many women using the same modus operandi.

It is time you wised up to Internet fraud, which comes in all forms. Always remember – if something sounds too good to be true, it is because it probably is. Question such claims, ask those you are chatting with for identity proof; red lights and red flags must go up at regular intervals. If your online friend is asking for compromising pictures and money as loans for projects that seem highly implausible, it is most probably a fraud. Sometimes, even very intelligent, level-headed people get swept away, so enticing and deceptively alluring is this medium.

It affords anonymity, by its very nature. Here, you can inflate claims, be what you are not, make the mediocre wildly impressive and start spinning a web of diabolical deceit with the first impression, and very often, it is a lasting one. Many conmen avoid meeting the person they are duping for as long as possible, using their online presence as substitute for the real one.

It is important to trust your instincts here, and when and if in doubt, cut that person out of your life altogether. You are not being paranoid or overreacting.

Heartbreak is bad enough, don't pay with your money, or your life.

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