Facebook hasn’t done enough to deal with the scammers who already frequent the site.
Not everybody is thrilled by Tuesday’s announcement that Facebook is planning to run its own dating platform on the site. Facebook Dating, set to roll out later this year, will be an opt-in feature through which the social media platform suggests matches for you based on your shared interests and events.
Sure, the news sent the stock of Tinder’s parent company tumbling and caused more than a few people to ponder if what the world really needs is yet another dating site. But there was one group that took things much more personally: Those who have been victimized by online romance scams and think Facebook is complicit.
Facebook has done a poor job of policing its platform and keeping it free from scammers, said multiple victims who first spoke to HuffPost for a July 2017 exposé on online romance scams, an estimated billion-dollars-a-year crime, according to the FBI.
Here’s how it works: Scammers steal photos from Facebook and other sites and use them to create fake Facebook profiles. They use those profiles to friend people on the site, and once a victim bites, they move the conversation over to WhatsApp or Messenger, which are both Facebook properties. After a close relationship is formed, the scammer will ask the victim for money to handle “an emergency.” Usually it’s a small amount at first, but subsequent requests for money have left some victims bilked out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. A Texas woman who cooperated with the FBI lost $2 million.
It’s a con game that experts say preys on the emotionally vulnerable, and many victims are too embarrassed to admit to family and friends that they fell for it. Only about 15 percent report scams like these to authorities, the FBI estimates.