The Jakarta Post
Sandra, not her real name, an executive from Pondok Indah, South Jakarta, lost the sparkle in her eye at Kuala Lumpur International Airport after she found out that her Internet boyfriend was a Nigerian, and not an Englishman, as he said on Facebook.
Shocked, Sandra asked the man why he had lied to her. He replied: 'So now, my love, you do not want to accept me as I am because I am black?'
Sandra said that she was at a loss for words. She realized that he had been deceiving her.
The 29-year-old said that she had spent more than Rp 1 billion (US$103,000), including money she earned from selling a house, to help the Nigerian solve his 'troubles' because he had promised to marry her.
Sandra was one of a host of victims of scams involving social media and the Internet. According to the Jakarta Police, such scams involved losses of more than Rp 5 billion and accounted for 40 percent of 176 cyber crime cases recorded during the first four months of 2013.
Cyber crime unit head Adj. Sr. Comr. Audie Latuheru told The Jakarta Post over the weekend that the perpetrators of so-called 'love bride scams' approached potential victims on the Internet, saying sweet things and offering solutions to problems, love or even convincing promises to marry.
'Facebook and other social media are a world without boundaries that can be used by perpetrators to practice criminal acts. Perpetrators usually manipulate the emotional weaknesses of potential victims,' Audie said.
He said the criminals usually studied a target's profiles from photos, statuses, friends and locations. Thus, the criminals would know the problems of their marks, what made them happy and what help that they needed.
'Using such an approach, the perpetrators could learn how to get closer to the potential victims and hook them,' Audie said.
Audie said the perpetrators usually approached potential victims ' who he said could be men or women, adults or teens ' using messages crafted in poor English and by uploading false photos of themselves.
Some of the perpetrators work in groups, others work individually.
He said that the police had caught some 'love bride' syndicates that included foreigners from Nigeria, Cameroon and Libya who lived in Jakarta. 'Some perpetrators are difficult to catch because they are creative and hide their IP [Internet Protocol] addresses.'.
Sociologist Ida Ruwaida Noor from the University of Indonesia said that most Internet users in Indonesia were not aware of the norms and values used to communicate on the Internet, using the medium for fun without an awareness of the dangers.
'Most people here access the Internet not as a means to gain a better education. They use it only to make new virtual friends and to make themselves feel proud of being popular among users,' Ida said.
The sociologist said that local Internet users had a limited ability to scrutinize the people that they meet online. 'They, for example, hastily confirm requests from people that they do not know well, including ones with unusual profiles or the ones with the least mutual friends.'
Ida said that women were easily targeted in cyber crimes because they were vulnerable to emotional turbulence. 'Most women use Facebook as way to kill loneliness and to get attention from others.'
Internet users needed to build a critical attitude in networking through social media, according to Ida.
'Internet users need to be aware of the norms and values in communicating with other people in the virtual world,' she added. (tam)
Recent 'love bride' scams
'¢ March 2012
A businesswoman reports losing Rp 1.78 billion (US$183,400) to a Nigerian who had told her that he was from London when they met on Facebook.
'¢ June 2012
A woman who works for money changer reports losing Rp 1.2 billion to a Nigerian lover who promised to double her money. She met the man online.
'¢ December 2012
An oil company executive reports losing Rp 137 million to a widow he met online named Desi Olana, who said that she needed money to return to Indonesia from the UK.
'¢ March 2013
A women reports that a man she met on Facebook stole Rp 44 million and two cellular phones from her when they met in a hotel in Jakarta.
From media sources
When love is in the air, don't throw caution to the wind
'¢ Be careful when making new friends or networking on the Internet. While we may approve new online friend requests quickly, experts say do not too quick to trust those you meet in the digital world.
'¢ Check through profile of a new acquaintance thoroughly, including photos, personal data and other friends to see if the person is a scammer.
'¢ Invite your new friend to a video chat through Skype, Yahoo! Messenger or Facebook to see if their photos match the person. Cyber criminals usually post photos of handsome or beautiful people, pretending to be lonely hearts in needs of companion.
'¢ Don't upload too many photos or too much information to the Internet. Bride scam perpetrators usually choose targets by analyzing their profiles on social media to determine who is vulnerable or rich.
'¢ Do not write status messages telling of your problems or weaknesses. Cyber criminals are and know how to find their targets through plaintive status messages.
Source: Jakarta Police
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