Cybernews podcast #33: the horrors of scam slavery

Not every romance scammer is a posh socialite with a lavish lifestyle. Many of those McDreamy's are, in fact, slaves, risking electrocution if their scam quotas are not met.

On March 13th, law enforcement raided a heavily fortified compound near Manila, the capital of the Philippines, where crooks held nearly a thousand victims of human trafficking and forced them to operate online romance scams.

While it's common to imagine scammers as powerful individuals living lavish lives with fancy cars and wealth, they’re actually victims too, in many cases.

If you were scammed out of thousands of dollars by a scam slave, would you feel better than if you got scammed by a rich dandy?

Victims lost a staggering $1.3 billion last year to romance scams, and we can only suspect that the actual number is much higher. Quite often, people choose not to report the losses because they feel they have no hope of getting the money back, and sometimes from embarrassment and shame.

But money, in many cases, isn't even the most important thing that people lose. Just as in the case of a theft, they’re also being robbed of that feeling of security.

Moreover, imagine having a romantic relationship with someone online for a couple of months before your Valentine disappears with your money.

Paulina Okunytė had a similar experience once when a person she had been living with for about a month stole her laptop and disappeared.

It felt like a betrayal, she said.

It's common to believe that it’s the elderly who fall victim to such scams. One case where an older woman lost thousands of dollars even inspired the creation of a startup aimed at protecting people.

But if you think you're too smart and tech-savvy to get scammed like this, think again. Scammers, now with the help of AI, can create a con customized to almost anybody and will surely try to catch you off guard.