E-Whores: Going Undercover into the Online Classifieds Dating Scams
The advent of superstore shopping has created a cultural backlash (what some might call the ‘Walmart mentality‘). Internet junkies are seeking for everything from used VW golfs to ASUS laptops and bartending jobs, all on the same site.
For a lonely few, the 'dating' and 'friendship' sections are only a mouse click away. But seeking love (or sex) on an online classifieds has its drawbacks. And one of them, is being scammed.
Classifieds Dating Scams
Scammed? Pah. Most of us meet the average intelligence requirement to not fall for the typical craigslist or gumtree hustle, especially if Western Union or a Nigerian gets involved.
We are partly so sensitized, because we hear about these kinds of scam in the news, and read about them all the time. Parting with our wallets for phony renters requesting money upfront via Western Union for non existent flats would of course never happen (but sending upfront fees to employers who claim it as a pre-requiste to give you the job would be even more ridiculous- how backwards is that?)
What you may not realise, is that the personals sections on these classifieds sites are no exception. They are filled with online scammers trying to make a quick buck. Better yet, they have a name. They are called 'ewhores'.
According to the Method List, a website that provides information on how to make money online, e-whoring is a "black hat marketing method that starts with signing up for dating or webcam affiliates."
In laymen terms, spammers use unethical (and often illegal) methods to get affiliates to pay you a commission for referring new juicy traffic to them, by pretending to be a pretty girl.
And being scammed by a classfieds e-whore who hasn't exactly taken anything from you (except your dignity and a recurring credit card bill) is unlikely to rush you to the authorities, or the local news station.
As duly diligent Bitterwallet editors, we decided to go undercover to illustrate our point (and with a faint hope of perhaps finding true love, indeed).
Names have been changed to protect the innocent and the desperate.
First, we needed a photo for our punter. Instead of using our own photo, we decided to borrow a 'fake pic'. We shall call him 'Bob'.
There were plenty available on the Gumtree website. We settled on a particularly normal looking male (photo to the right).
Bob's Journey for Love
It's time for Bob to do some soul searching. Bob first must contemplated on a good ice breaker. After much though, "Hello cutie, I saw u, do u wanna come fly with me?" sounds good enough and very fitting indeed. In fact, I'm sure Clark Kent has used it a few times himself.
For good karma, should our investigation result in Bob finding a girl genuinely interested in men over the age of 10 dressed up as Superman, we will truly feel obliged to introduce them. But for now, we will not be hedging our bets on that. Moving on...
Scouting the dating section of London Gumtree, Bob found 3 lovelies that could potentially be his next soulmate:
Bob's 3 Selections from London Gumtree:
Profile: New to the area and would love to make true friends
Profile: Looking for a lover
Profile: Seeking loyal, honest gentlemen
Bob decides that he would happily date and mate with any of these cuties (mostly due to their nice personalities). Bob creates an email address with the words 'bob' and 'superman', and proceeds to send them his signature pick up line.
The very next day, Bob wakes up, puts on his outfit, and checks his email.
He was amazed to find out that all 3 ladies have responded to him, and have even provided ways to contact them!
Here are their replies:
"Sorry I'm away from my pc at the moment but if you would like to call me on my mobile or leave a message please call 0700------. Look forward to talking with you. Bye Gill x"
Bob calls the 0700 number. The phone rings. No answer. Bob tries again. Nope. Nothing.
What happens: An hour later, Bob receives a SMS. Strange. Bob never receives SMSes. Bob opens the message. It wasn't from Gill, but the content was saucy. Bob was happy. He continues to receive these texts, about once every other day. It was only at the end of the month, when he started getting fed up, that he realised he was being charged £1.50 for each on his mobile.
Gill must like him very much, after all.
Clare: "Hi hun, you sound and seem great,i was blushing wen i was reading your email,but yeah would love to get to know you better but theres alot of wierdos on this gumtree thing hun,so i was thinking if youd like to register at this dating site im useing,got free sms to any mobile and much more but most of all if you register there then ill know your serious,once you register message me and ill reply with my phone number k,the dating site youll find me at is www.xxxxxx.adultcrxxx.com, my user name is clarey hope to speak there soonx clarexxxxmwahxxx"
Bob decides to check out Clare's site. He registers. He finds 'Clarey' inside. But in order to see her profile, Bob must upgrade his membership. But hey, there's a 3 day trial for only £1.99. Bob submits his credit card details. He gets access. He messages Clare.
What happens: 'Clare' never responds. Bob gets a recurring credit card charge for £49 a month that becomes impossible to cancel. He also noticed alot more incoming spam mail since.
He never hears from Clarey baby again.
Seeking loyal, honest gentlemen Age: 20
"Hi, Thanks for replying my ad, I hope you're the one I am looking for. Could you please register for free at http://friendfinder.com/go/xxxxxx once you have done that please send me your profile ID sweetie. It's important that you sign up so you will see my other photos and full profile with cell number. Jenny"
Bob is losing hope, but remains to have faith in his ability to score. Jenny sounded nice, and called him sweetie, so Bob clicks through.
What happens: Jenny is no where to be found. Bob learns from his lesson and doesn't pay. But too late. The 'pay per click' affiliate payment has already gone through for the scammer.
The above are just 3 examples showing how e-whores operate, and are some more obvious basic examples of what can happen.
E-Whoring tactics are so widespread that there are internet forums devoted to teaching more 'advanced' techniques. Sometimes scammers will even offer to meet in person, to gain money (or possibly a visa). The basic setup is described here [Hoax-Slayer.com].
Gumtree and Craigslist both regulate their ads, but utilization of the most 'advanced' strategies tend to allow these ads to slip through. Unfair, I know, especially when that genuine LCD TV ad you wrote never appeared.
This unethical marketing devalues sites like Craigslist and Gumtree. Blowing the whistle is a step toward keeping social media sites as cool and useful as they were intended to be. The 3 case studies above are not exhaustive, as there are plenty of other techniques utilized by the pimpled male teenagers usually behind these scams.
There are also ebooks you can buy that teach you step by step how to take advantage of lonely horndogs who really believe that attractive women want to take off their clothes for them for no reason. No, the world isn't that perfect.
As Paul McCartney sang in 1964, you "Can't Buy me Love". So if people actually stop making these people money, they will probably eventually stop. But until then, avoid like a plague. Or Herpes.