What a Picture is Worth

A 60-year-old woman was going to leave her husband, purchase a $200K condo in Florida through an agent she didn't know, and live with her online boyfriend whom she had never met in person. 

She met her boyfriend on "Words with Friends" 8 months ago.  He was an independent contractor working on an oil rig.  In June, a part had broken on the rig, which he said he was responsible for, and needed to get fixed.  To help him, she wired $20,000 to a person she didn't know in the US.  She told the bank it was going to a family friend so they'd wire it for her without a lot of questions. 

I spoke with the woman this morning and she provided phone numbers that she would communicate with her boyfriend through via voice and text.  The phone numbers proved to be VOIPs (voice over the Internet protocol), which means the calls were going through a computer and couldn't be easily traced. 

She also provided pictures of her boyfriend which I ran through an internet image search. 

person holding up two fingers
Scammers can easily find a pic of someone holding up 2 fingers, but rarely 3.

The first photo showed a different individual with the client's boyfriend's face super-imposed. The second photo showed a stock hospital photo, again with the boyfriend's face super-imposed. 

When the client saw the photos, she was convinced she was being scammed and decided not to purchase the condo in Florida.  My thought is she wasn't going to be instructed to send the money to a title company or real estate office to make the purchase.  She would've sent the money wherever the boyfriend told her.  She would've found out she hadn't purchased anything and would've been out a lot of money.  

****I will typically ask clients to have their significant other take a quick selfie of themselves holding up 3 fingers.  I let them know they'll get a lot of push back if the person isn't who they claim to be.  The reason for the 3 fingers is because when photos are hacked into, they can usually find a picture of someone holding up 1 finger or 2 fingers, but rarely if ever, 3 fingers.  If you receive a photo back quickly with the person holding up 3 fingers, you can be more certain that it's a picture of the person you're talking to.  

If it takes them a while and then you receive one, take a close look to see if it appears to be photo-shopped or altered.  If they refuse to send one, and try to use the excuse you don't trust them…..well, there's your reason not to trust them.

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