By Shaista Gohir  (MWN Hub)

As highlighted in the various cases studies in Catfishing on Muslim Marriage Platforms, some men are deliberately targeting women, especially those who are particularly vulnerable. Using fake personas, they are taking advantage of these women including duping them into handing over tens of thousands of pounds. This fraudulent and criminal behaviour is not limited to Muslim marriage websites and mobile apps, some men are also joining Whats App groups with the sole purpose of identifying and befriending vulnerable women. The scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated with some fraudsters even mimicking UK mobile numbers, so they can pretend to be based in this country.

Here is a list of red flags to look out for and precautions to stay safe online.

Read flags

1. Saying they are separated or divorced but not being available e.g. only answering calls at certain times and / or the phone even being switched off.

2. Asking for money e.g. investments, loans and even charitable donations.

3. Asking for your home or work address under the guise of posting you a card, present or flowers.

4. Asking you for nude photos of yourself.

5. Requesting that you not to inform family and friends about what they are asking of you.

6. Inviting you to a hotel or even their accommodation very early on in your interactions.

7. Threatening self-harm and suicide and declaring undying love although they have not known you for very long and / or have only gotten to know you online.

8. Avoiding video chats and always making excuses - it may be a tactic to prevent you from realising they are not the person in their profile picture.

9. Only wanting to chat using Whats app and other Internet based voice communications to prevent detection of their location e.g. being based in another country.

10. Avoiding meeting up and cancelling meetings - it may be a tactic to prevent you from finding out they are not who they say they are including and may even be based in another country.

11. Over reacting and saying they are offended because you want to verify their identity e.g. by say a video call or showing their passport via a video call or being offended because you will not donate or give a loan.

12. Not introducing you to family and friends.

Safety Tips

1. Verify any images they send you or those in the profile picture match the person you are speaking to e.g. ask for a video call (including in different settings including outside).

2. Verify their identity e.g. asking to see a passport via a video chat - explain that is for your safety and they should not be offended by this.

3. Do not reveal personal financial information including value of assets.

4. Do not transfer any money.

5. Do not reveal very personal information such as trauma.

6. Do not take out loans regardless of out the heart wrenching story is.

7. Ask for proof of identification before progressing further.

8. Ask to be introduced to family, friends or work colleagues.

9. Tell someone of any suspicious activity e.g. friends, family etc and talk it through.

10. Tell the organisation through which you met the person e.g. matrimonial website / app or administrators of any Whats App Groups.

11. Tell the police because the likelihood is the fraudster is probably speaking to several women.

12. Tell your bank and credit card company if you were duped or pressured into sending money. In some cases the bank may replace the money you have lost.

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