Emotional fraud on the rise during the Corona pandemic

ازدياد عمليات الاحتيال العاطفي خلال جائحة كورونا تضاعفت أعداد عمليات الاحتيال العاطفي عبر تطبيقات المواعدة، خلال جائحة كوفيد-19، بعدما دفعت تدابير الحجر المنزلي المتكررة كثيرين إلى البحث عن الحب من وراء الشاشات.  على مدى سنوات، لم تخبر ديبي مونتغومري جونسون أحداً بأنها تعرضت لاحتيال بقيمة تفوق مليون دولار من جانب رجل أوهمها بعزمه على الارتباط بها، على غرار ضحايا كثر لعمليات احتيال عاطفية عبر الإنترنت في الولايات المتحدة.  وتقول العسكرية الأمريكية السابقة من منزلها في فلوريدا لوكالة الصحافة الفرنسية: "ما كان يجب أن يحصل ذلك بتاتاً".  وقد تضاعفت أعداد عمليات الاحتيال العاطفي هذه عبر تطبيقات المواعدة، خلال جائحة كوفيد-19، بعدما دفعت تدابير الحجر المنزلي المتكررة كثيرين إلى البحث عن الحب من وراء الشاشات.  وبلغت قيمة الأموال المنهوبة في عمليات الاحتيال هذه مستوى قياسياً قدره 547 مليون دولار عام 2021 في هذا النوع من الحالات، حسب تقديرات هيئة المنافسة الأمريكية (FTC)، في زيادة تقارب 80% خلال عام واحد.  وجرى الإبلاغ عن خسائر بنحو 1,3 مليار دولار في الولايات المتحدة على مدى السنوات الخمس الماضية، ما يجعلها أكبر فئة احتيالية سجلتها الوكالة الأمريكية.  لكن هذا ليس سوى غيض من فيض، وفق لجنة التجارة الفدرالية، لأن الغالبية العظمى من الانتهاكات لا يُبلغ عنها.  ويمكن تفسير الازدياد الأخير في الأرقام انطلاقاً من العزلة والوحدة واستخدام الإنترنت كطريقة وحيدة تقريباً للتواصل أثناء تفشي الوباء، حسب تقديرات تيم ماكغينيس مؤسس جمعية سكارس المخصصة.  حيل جديدة خلال الجائحة  من النتائج الإيجابية المفاجئة لفحوص كوفيد إلى قيود السفر الجديدة وفرت الضبابية المستمرة خلال العامين الماضيين أعذاراً جاهزة للمحتالين لإلغاء مواعيد انتظرها طويلاً من أوهموهم بالحب، وفق هيئة المنافسة الأمريكية.  وقال رجل لجمعية "Silent Victim No More" إن القيود الصحية وفّرت لمراسلته أسباباً دائمة للتهرب منه.  واعتبر الرجل، الذي دفع ما يقرب من 400 ألف دولار، أن الجائحة "صبت في مصلحة المحتالين".  في المقابل، يزيد الاهتمام بهذا النوع من عمليات الاحتيال، لا سيّما عبر مجموعات تعاضد أو أخيراً عبر الفيلم الوثائقي "The Tinder swindler" على نتفليكس.  وفور إدراك الستينية دي بي مونتغومري جونسون أنها فقدت أكثر من مليون دولار، قررت أن تروي كيف وقعت في شباك رجل أوهمها بالحب على مدى عامين.  وقد كتبت كتاباً عن قصتها وانضمت إلى فريق جمعية "سكارس" التي تتواصل مع حوالي سبعة ملايين ضحية منذ عام 2015.  تشرح جونسون قائلة: "كنت أبحث عن صديق مقرب" بعد أن غاصت في مواقع المواعدة بعد وفاة زوجها.  ولم تكن تعتزم دفع المال كما فعلت، لكن الرجل "حرك فعلا مشاعري".  ويصف تيم ماكغينيس من جمعية "سكارس"، وهو أيضا ضحية لمثل هذه الحالات، هذا الاحتيال بأنه "تلاعب على مستوى رفيع".  ويقول إن "التواصل يحصل على شكل محادثة عادية، لكنه يستخدم تقنيات تلاعب محددة جداً للهيمنة على الضحية".  ويتلطى المحتالون، وأغلبهم يقيمون في غرب إفريقيا، خلف هويات مزيفة لأشخاص يعيشون ويعملون في الخارج، أحياناً تحت ستار جنود، ما يفتح الطريق لاحقاً أمام أعذار.  بعد قصة حب طويلة من بُعد، يأتي طلب تحويل الأموال لشراء تذاكر سفر أو تأشيرات دخول أو نفقات طبية أو حالات طوارئ أخرى، مع وعد دائماً بإعادة المبالغ المدفوعة فور حصول اللقاء المزعوم.  مع قليل من المخاطر وكثير من الأرباح، يكرر المحتالون هذا السيناريو ليس على تطبيقات المواعدة فحسب، بل أيضا على إنستغرام أو حتى الألعاب عبر الإنترنت.  ويقول تيم ماكغينيس: "المحتالون موجودون في أي مكان يمكنك فيه بدء محادثة مع شخص ما".  لم يكن أحد يتحدث عنها  ولا يُستثنى الشباب من هذه العمليات، فحسب هيئة المنافسة الأمريكية، زاد عدد الأمريكيين ضحايا هذا الاحتيال الذين تراوح أعمارهم بين 18 و29 عاماً بأكثر من عشرة أضعاف بين عامي 2017 و2021.  وتسهّل الشعبية المتزايدة للعملات المشفرة مثل بيتكوين، أيضاً هذه الحالات بفعل الغموض في التحويلات النقدية التي تتيحها.  وحسب تيم ماكغينيس، فإن "عمليات الاحتيال العاطفي تطول أبناء جيل الشباب بوتيرة أكبر مع مبالغ أقل، فيما يخسر كبار السن مبالغ أكبر لكن بوتيرة أقل".  وبسبب الخوف من أحكام الآخرين، غالباً يحتفظ الضحايا لأنفسهم بقصة يخجلون منها.  وقد سمعت ديبي مونتغومري جونسون الكثير من القصص المشابهة لقصصها على مر السنين، "لكن لم يكن أحد يتحدث عنها".   وتقول اليوم إنها "تريد أن تردد صدى صوتها من حولها، لتكون صوت من بقي على قيد الحياة".     Emotional fraud on the rise during the Corona pandemic  The number of emotional scams through dating apps multiplied during the Covid-19 pandemic, after repeated home quarantine measures prompted many to search for love behind screens.  For years, Debbie Montgomery Johnson did not tell anyone that she had been defrauded of more than a million dollars by a man who deluded her of his intent to associate with her, similar to the many victims of Internet fraud in the United States.  "It shouldn't have happened at all," the former US military told AFP from her home in Florida.  The number of these emotional scams through dating apps has multiplied during the Covid-19 pandemic, after repeated home quarantine measures prompted many to search for love behind screens.  The value of money looted in these scams reached a record high of $547 million in 2021 in this type of case, the FTC estimates, an increase of nearly 80% in one year.  About $1.3 billion in losses have been reported in the United States over the past five years, making it the largest fraud category recorded by the agency.  But that's just the tip of the iceberg, according to the Federal Trade Commission, because the vast majority of violations go unreported.  The recent increase in numbers can be explained by isolation, loneliness and the use of the Internet as almost the only way to communicate during the outbreak of the epidemic, estimates Tim McGuinness, founder of the dedicated Scars Association.  New tricks during the pandemic From surprising positive Covid test results to new travel restrictions, the ongoing uncertainty over the past two years has provided ready excuses for scammers to cancel long-awaited appointments with delusions of love, according to the US Competition Authority.  One man told Silent Victim No More that the health restrictions provided his correspondent with permanent reasons to evade him.  The man, who paid nearly $400,000, considered the pandemic to have "served the scammers".  On the other hand, interest in this type of scam is increasing, especially through synergy groups or recently through the documentary "The Tinder swindler" on Netflix.  As soon as the sixties DB Montgomery Johnson realized that she had lost more than a million dollars, she decided to tell how she fell in the nets of a man who made her fall in love for two years.  She has written a book about her story and joined the SCARS team, which has been in touch with nearly seven million victims since 2015.  "I was looking for a close friend," Johnson explains, after diving into dating sites after her husband's death.  She didn't intend to pay the money as she did, but the man "really moved my feelings". Tim McGuinness of SCARS, who is also a victim of such cases, describes the fraud as "high-level manipulation".  "The communication takes place in the form of a normal conversation, but it uses very specific manipulative techniques to dominate the victim," he says.  The fraudsters, most of whom live in West Africa, hide behind false identities of people living and working abroad, sometimes under the guise of soldiers, which later opens the way for excuses.  After a long distance love affair, comes a request to transfer money for tickets, visas, medical expenses, or other emergencies, with always a promise of refunds immediately upon the alleged encounter.  With little risk and a lot of profit, scammers repeat this scenario not only on dating apps, but also on Instagram or even online games.  "Scammers exist anywhere you can start a conversation with someone," says Tim McGuinness.  Nobody was talking about her Young people are not excluded from these processes, and according to the US Competition Authority, the number of Americans aged 18 to 29 victims of this fraud more than tenfold between 2017 and 2021.  The growing popularity of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin also facilitates these cases due to the ambiguity in the remittances they provide.  According to Tim McGuinness, "Emotional fraud affects the younger generation more often and with less money, while the elderly lose more money but less frequently."  Because of the fear of others' judgments, victims often keep a story to themselves that they are ashamed of. Debbie Montgomery Johnson has heard many similar stories over the years, "but no one was talking about them."  Today, she says, she "wants to echo around her, to be the voice of those who survived."

Emotional fraud on the rise during the Corona pandemic


The number of emotional scams through dating apps multiplied during the Covid-19 pandemic, after repeated home quarantine measures prompted many to search for love behind screens.

For years, Debbie Montgomery Johnson did not tell anyone that she had been defrauded of more than a million dollars by a man who deluded her of his intent to associate with her, similar to the many victims of Internet fraud in the United States.

"It shouldn't have happened at all," the former US military told AFP from her home in Florida.

The number of these emotional scams through dating apps has multiplied during the Covid-19 pandemic, after repeated home quarantine measures prompted many to search for love behind screens.

The value of money looted in these scams reached a record high of $547 million in 2021 in this type of case, the FTC estimates, an increase of nearly 80% in one year.

About $1.3 billion in losses have been reported in the United States over the past five years, making it the largest fraud category recorded by the agency.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg, according to the Federal Trade Commission, because the vast majority of violations go unreported.

The recent increase in numbers can be explained by isolation, loneliness and the use of the Internet as almost the only way to communicate during the outbreak of the epidemic, estimates Tim McGuinness, founder of the dedicated Scars Association.

New tricks during the pandemic
From surprising positive Covid test results to new travel restrictions, the ongoing uncertainty over the past two years has provided ready excuses for scammers to cancel long-awaited appointments with delusions of love, according to the US Competition Authority.

One man told Silent Victim No More that the health restrictions provided his correspondent with permanent reasons to evade him.

The man, who paid nearly $400,000, considered the pandemic to have "served the scammers".

On the other hand, interest in this type of scam is increasing, especially through synergy groups or recently through the documentary "The Tinder swindler" on Netflix.

As soon as the sixties DB Montgomery Johnson realized that she had lost more than a million dollars, she decided to tell how she fell in the nets of a man who made her fall in love for two years.

She has written a book about her story and joined the SCARS team, which has been in touch with nearly seven million victims since 2015.

"I was looking for a close friend," Johnson explains, after diving into dating sites after her husband's death.

She didn't intend to pay the money as she did, but the man "really moved my feelings".
Tim McGuinness of SCARS, who is also a victim of such cases, describes the fraud as "high-level manipulation".

"The communication takes place in the form of a normal conversation, but it uses very specific manipulative techniques to dominate the victim," he says.

The fraudsters, most of whom live in West Africa, hide behind false identities of people living and working abroad, sometimes under the guise of soldiers, which later opens the way for excuses.

After a long distance love affair, comes a request to transfer money for tickets, visas, medical expenses, or other emergencies, with always a promise of refunds immediately upon the alleged encounter.

With little risk and a lot of profit, scammers repeat this scenario not only on dating apps, but also on Instagram or even online games.

"Scammers exist anywhere you can start a conversation with someone," says Tim McGuinness.

Nobody was talking about her
Young people are not excluded from these processes, and according to the US Competition Authority, the number of Americans aged 18 to 29 victims of this fraud more than tenfold between 2017 and 2021.

The growing popularity of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin also facilitates these cases due to the ambiguity in the remittances they provide.

According to Tim McGuinness, "Emotional fraud affects the younger generation more often and with less money, while the elderly lose more money but less frequently."

Because of the fear of others' judgments, victims often keep a story to themselves that they are ashamed of.
Debbie Montgomery Johnson has heard many similar stories over the years, "but no one was talking about them."

Today, she says, she "wants to echo around her, to be the voice of those who survived."
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