WWF used to be the well-known initials of the World Wrestling Federation (think Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage) until the World Wildlife Fund sued it (the fund had already been using “WWF” in their marketing for years).
More recently, though, the initials WWF are often more recognizable as those of one of the world’s most popular smartphone game apps, Words With Friends.
Similar to playing Scrabble on your smartphone, the game allows you to connect with friends and relatives in different parts of the country and the world. It is a legitimate game app. You are encouraged to upload a profile photo. There’s also a social component of WWF in that players can exchange instant messages with their opponents. The game’s app description touts, “Discover new friends instantly with random opponent matching,” a feature many people take advantage of.
In a conversation over lunch awhile back, a friend, who is an avid WWF player, mentioned at least three opponents attempted to engage her in a more personal conversation than she was willing. My friend thought her male opponents were lonely and looking to establish a relationship with her.
I about dropped my fork! I told her, “They aren’t looking for love, this is the beginning of a ‘Long Con.’”
The classic “Long Con” slowly draws the victim into a scam, often taking months developing a trusting relationship. The con man usually “shares” personal details of his life to establish a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. In talking with one of the other women in my office, she told me her sister had the same thing happen to her while playing Words With Friends!
Not being all that familiar with WWF, I decided to investigate, thinking this might be a good subject for an article. I found it was not only wise to let the public know, but this kind of thing happens on nearly every form of social media — Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, etc.
Commonly, a male opponent strikes up a casual conversation with a lonely, older female player. Over time, the man shares his life story, asks questions about her life and what she likes and begins to talk romantically with her.
This fraud follows a script to a T: The man claims to be a widower. Sooner or later, a catastrophe of some kind hits the man. Typically, his son or daughter back home needs an operation costing into the thousands of dollars, but he is stuck aboard a ship off the shores of Turkey or possibly serving in the military in Afghanistan (or some other remote place). The man then asks the woman to send money. One unfortunate woman in New Zealand actually sent somebody $60,000, money that she will never see again!
Here are some easy precautions to take to avoid being scammed:
• Don’t play online games with someone you don’t know in real life.
• Change your profile picture from one of yourself to that of a pet or something that doesn’t identify you.
• If you do play with strangers, never share personal information with them. Watch for spelling, grammatical errors and inconsistent stories.
• Never ever, even if tempted, send money to a stranger.
• When doubtful, do your research. You’ll be surprised how much information springs up to convince you you’re about to make a very bad decision.
Social media romance scams such as this are increasing. Protect your privacy. It could save you from being scammed but also protect you from creeps and cyberstalkers.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.