The online life can be quite an adventure of discovery. Recently, I set up a Facebook page and account under my new author name, Meredith Schumann. I don’t much like social media, but it seems to be an essential tool nowadays for author promotion and integration. As I wanted to keep my personal and author accounts separate, I decided to add Meredith’s account to various writing groups, and to make an occasional post within those groups, suffixed by the words ‘Feel free to add me as a friend’.
I wouldn’t usually be so free with my friendship but was conscious that I was starting from point zero, and I needed to have SOME friends to be accepted as a member of some of the more particular groups.
At first, things were quiet, but then a couple came through. What to do with a random friend request can be a bit of a grey area, and, yes, for me a few friend requests appeared that didn’t seem quite right. I deleted most as obvious spam, but then I thought, what harm can one new friend do?
As I said, it’s useful to have a few Facebook friends, even on a brand new account, as it gives more of an impression of authenticity.
So, I accepted one request, just to see what happened. And from this (shock horror) there appeared another 500 auto-generated requests from another 500 men that I don’t know. Not a single woman! Most of these profiles indicated males that were from Nigeria, the far East, Arabian countries and the US. Almost all had bland and impersonal profiles and would send bland and impersonal messages.
I’m no scam victim; I’m just a person interested in how the scammers work, what the ‘friendly guys’ had to say, and how their messages aligned with their profiles.
I didn’t make a note of the first fifty messages I received as I was busy with other stuff. But the contacts seemed to be triggered by my logging into Facebook, and they occurred despite my profile clearly stating that I would only respond to messages about writing and books.
The men’s words indicate that they are either not reading my instructions or that their silly little messages are automated. OK, so let’s go. I’m logging on now.
The messages are so bland and NOT writing-related. You are so pretty today. What are you doing? Hello. Hello? Hi? You There? Hey! How You Pretty Lady! And I looking for nice England lady for marry.
The ‘people’ who are messaging don’t look much like my usual friends, though it isn’t always easy to tell. Iyobor has a bike frame as his profile. Innocent seems about 12 and asks if I had a good day at work. Egonu wears a basketball shirt, is from Nigeria, and without my responding to anything he says, informs me that he longs to travel and that he ‘likes big woman’. Ozzy’s profile photo is a nondescript bowl of something unappetising. You can tell it must be food because there is a spoon balanced on the side of the dish.
Oddly (and cynically) I notice that Ozzy’s only friends are also friends with me! Gosh, what an incredible coincidence. We aren’t members of the same groups, and yet from across the globe, I have acquired non-friends of non-friends. I am such a lucky lady.
Donald Smith from Indonesia has a profile picture that shows a very young Asian man holding a cute dog. I delete him as soon as he messages me. I have nothing against Indonesians nor tiny dogs. I do have something against a stranger who informs me that he plans to travel to the UK and that I (not he) would like to meet up. It is the most presumptuous statement!
Henry’s profile picture is of a cute black baby, but I delete him as soon as he tells me he is looking for beautiful woman. One of his friends claims to like guns, and he is also instantly deleted. Uchenna and Ogun say Hi and Hey. Capo says Hello, and so do Iyobor and Kelechi. Gosh, I’m utterly overstimulated and can’t keep up with their incredible witty banter. The latter’s profile picture is dull purple with what looks like a very tiny guy peeping onto the bottom of the photo. I think he’s trying to be cute and quirky, but he just seems as if his photo studio stool is far too small.
After each contact, I delete the sender as a friend, though I respect their astonishing inventiveness and inspirational literacy.
Over a couple of weeks, I also receive fourteen video calls. I ignore all fourteen. I don’t even always answer the phone to people I love, and I HATE video calls. One example was when little Uchenna (who looks about 20) tried to video chat me at midnight. I was asleep, but he was persistent. ‘Hello beautiful, good morning over there, how are you doing over there?’ No punctuation or capitals and wow, I was seduced. Really, I was.
Contacts continued for a couple of weeks. I was deleting everyone who messaged me about anything that wasn’t writing-related, and I lost a couple of hundred so-called friends. I was gutted, of course, to have mislaid such precious life-companions, but it genuinely couldn’t have been helped.
I must resign myself to ignoring every one of these auto-generated unreal characters, and watching their numbers reduce day by day. I look forward to the day when one (just ONE) of these genuine ‘friends’ decide to converse about books or words.
#meredithschumann #facebook #scam #scammers #facebookscam