In the past, when someone wanted to meet a potential mate, it was much more “personal” than it is today. A friend or colleague would set you up on a date, or maybe you met someone in a class and asked them to a dance or to a movie. Maybe you had a cousin or heaven forbid your aunt “knew this lovely son or daughter of her friend at church who would be just perfect for you!” If you were really stuck, you may have gone to a “matchmaker” or put an ad in the local paper under the “looking for someone” section. But for the most part, it was all either in person or through someone you knew. That was back in the “good old days” when people actually talked to each other or were friends with people that were actually “in-person” friends instead of “online” friends.
The same went for doing business with someone. It used to be that if you were going to do business with someone, it was on a physical handshake, meaning you were face-to-face and met in person at a brick-and-mortar established building. You most often would deal with someone that was in the area and if you had questions you could actually talk on the phone or take a train or subway or bus and be there to actually sign the papers with an actual pen that had ink in it. Can you imagine?
But fast forward to the world today. People meet through chat rooms or dating sites, business is done through texts and emails. If you need assistance, you are speaking with someone on the other side of the world, not just one state over. It used to be if you were going to cheat on someone, you and your “accomplice” would have to travel out of town to meet. Now you can “sext” with someone while your spouse is literally sitting across from you at the table eating dinner. When you are buying some stock in a company, you can sit in your pajamas at your kitchen table, and with a few passcodes and a transfer of funds from your bank, you now own a few shares of Alphabet, Inc. I can personally say that we have clients that we have never seen face to face, and for our line of business, they prefer it that way. But we always give the option of meeting those who would rather do business the old-fashioned way to come and meet with us at our Long Island City location. Anyone you do business with should offer that option if you want it. While you don’t have to go in person and prefer to do your business online, having that option further proves that they are legitimate.
It has truly become a world of convenience and access to almost anything is literally a few clicks away. You can Facetime your doctor, have a “virtual date” with someone 10,000 miles away, play a video game with someone in another country and even buy and sell a company without ever meeting the person face to face. Technology has enabled us to truly be people of the world without leaving our living rooms.
But as access to the world becomes ridiculously convenient, it also becomes convenient for some not-so-nice people to be able to trick you and/or steal from you. It is becoming much too common in this world of convenience for scammers and cheaters to be able to “do their thing” as easily as you can order some almond milk on Instacart. Used to be if you were going to lend money to someone, it was a matter of handing them a check (yes my millennial friends, a numbered piece of paper with your bank account number on it that was issued by the bank that was then written on and handed to someone after you recorded it in a “check register” that you carried around with you in your bag). Today, you can Venmo thousands of dollars to someone you’ve never been in the same room with, whether it is for business or personal reasons. Therein lies the opening for scammers to come in and steal your money.
We have had quite a few unfortunate souls that have come to us over the years for help. Now, these are oftentimes intelligent people that are not the type to be “taken” in “the old days”. But these are no longer the “old days” and more often than not both business and personal relationships are now done over the phone – either by text, email, Google, or actual phone conversations. This opens the door for you to be taken advantage of, and these people know exactly how to do it to the point where you think that it is your decision to do business with them. Next thing you know, you are calling us because you think something is not right. We want to help you, but depending on the situation, it is not all that easy. Yes, we have had some great successes, some of which I will share with you here, but the best advice I can give you is “buyer beware”. If you are ready to give money to someone – whether for a purchase or to “lend” to someone you think you know online, please contact us first. A quick search by us BEFORE you hit send on your Zelle payment – a search they will never know about to prove they are who they claim to be – is infinitely easier than tracking down a cyber-criminal. Trust me. At the end of this blog I will give you some very good advice, but before I do, here are some clients we have had that were unfortunately fooled online.
- We had a case a year ago with a housewife in East Flatbush, Brooklyn that got bored. She thought it would be fun to have a little “cyber fling” with someone online. She thought it would be some harmless fun and would not be any big deal. She went to an online site and found someone to “chat” with. She and this mystery man – let’s call him Ted Trixter – went back and forth for a month or so. They exchanged photos. He sent her some pictures of himself traveling the world. He claimed to be a businessman that was looking for someone to connect with. She fell for Ted and let her guard down. She and he would text and email and write some pretty juicy stuff to one another. Then one day she received the message that Ted was going to go to her husband and tell him everything. He had the messages all saved and the photos and now he was waiting for her to send him money to shut it down. That is when she came to us. It was a bait and switch, obviously. What she thought was some harmless fun was now threatening to ruin her marriage. She called us in a panic. We went to work and found out that the photos he sent belonged to an actor in another country. It was obviously not him doing this, so we dug further and finally lucked out when we were able to track the phone number he used once by mistake and we tracked him down to somewhere in the US. When she had that information she was able to get the authorities involved and shut down the scammer, who had been doing this to several other women.
- We had a call from a man in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn that had started a “relationship” with someone through a well-known dating site – we will call his “friend” Trixie. They were making arrangements to meet when Trixie ran into a “situation” in which she needed a large sum of money in order to be able to come. This was a substantial amount and there was a “connection” that had been built between the two for almost six months. He felt she was in trouble and she was on the way to meet him and appeared so anxious to do so, but this was holding Trixie back from being able to make the trip. Our client sent the money and soon after he could no longer reach Trixie. He came to us concerned that something had happened to her. It was then that we had to explain that we were happy to help him, but that Trixie may not be in trouble at all. That he may have been scammed. We felt terrible for him and tried to help as best we could based on the information that he had. We are currently working with the authorities on this case, so I can’t say much more, but we are hopeful that we will be able to find the group responsible for this and shut them down.
- However, not all scammers are as careless. It is not always easy to find a pro, especially when they are not in the same country. We dealt with a client from Broad Channel in Queens that was a well-to-do businessman. He was interested in meeting someone younger and found someone online that seemed to check off all the boxes – we’ll call her Missy. He felt it was a good match and they spoke on the phone and texted quite a bit. Over the following few weeks, he would slowly reveal information about himself to Missy and she to him (or so he thought). They exchanged photos of each other a few times. She was young and very pretty. He owned a very successful and profitable business. But things got strange when Missy started sending him pictures of herself naked. He said immediately that while he appreciated them, he wanted to have more of a bond between them and then work up to a sexual relationship. That is when he received contact from people claiming to be her parents saying that Missy was only 17 and that they were going to press charges and also send all of this to his family and friends if he did not pay them off. Not good. We worked hard on that case and eventually found the people involved through the information they gave the client on how to pay them. It was again a fortunate break in the case that we were able to use to our advantage. By having the client “play along” just long enough to “scam the scammer” while not sending any money, we were able to supply the client with enough information to give to the authorities and have the situation handled.
- It’s not only those “looking for love” that are scammed. We had a business person in Rosedale, Queens reach out to us a couple of years ago with a situation where he had several clients that invested in a company under his suggestion. There was a large amount of money involved in this, so when the alleged company owner suddenly disappeared with all the money and our client could not seem to contact him, he came to us for help. We were fortunate enough to track the scammer to another state and found everything the client needed to find him. Interesting side note – we were contacted a few months later by a detective on the other side of the country that came to us for more information. She was handling the case and found our report that was sent to our client online regarding his situation. This same scammer had also done this to several other people. The detective complimented us on the thoroughness of our investigation and was able to use our information to help solve those cases as well.
So if you find that you have been taken advantage of, don’t give up. Just contact us so we can try to help. You may actually help someone else in the process and by shutting down people like this, you are helping others to not have to go through the same issues as you are. We at Investigreat hate to see innocent people taken advantage of and will do everything we can to help you.
But the best way to not have to go through this is to be proactive. A quick background search by us and we can confirm that the person you are involved with is who they say they are. Then you can make an informed decision on whether or not you wish to proceed with the relationship. I cannot stress this enough. Everything we do is strictly between us and you. They will not know that you are checking on them. It is the best way to keep yourself from being taken advantage of by someone you may think you know, but in reality do not, at least not as much as you think you do. While not every person on the internet is trying to scam you, there are quite a few that want to. So please be careful out there and make sure that you stay cautious until you confirm that the person on the other end of the business deal or relationship is in fact who they claim to be.
I will finish off this blog by giving you the same advice I give my own family. When you are dealing with someone online, whether it be on a dating site, a business transaction, or anything in between, unless you have physically met this person, you need to be careful not to give them any personal information, such as last name, address, date of birth, etc. until you are 100% sure who you are dealing with and insist on an actual phone call or Zoom meeting to prove they are who they claim to be. If nothing else, do a quick Google search to confirm they are who they say they are. If anything makes you doubt that they are who they say they are, then call us first before you proceed. If it is a business transaction, check their reviews. If it is of a personal nature, never give them any compromising information or photos and insist that you have at least a Facetime or Zoom call with them (and take screenshots of them) before you make plans to meet them – and make sure it is in a public place, and make sure that you let someone else know where and when you plan to meet them. If they are open to it, ask to see the person’s driver’s license or passport (and take a photo or screenshot). Don’t show them yours until you’ve seen theirs (and have a screenshot). Most of all, no one that is interested in a true relationship should be asking you for any money, gift cards, gifts, etc. If they do, that is a red flag. Remember that. If you take away nothing else from this blog, please follow this advice. It is the best way to protect yourself in this crazy cyber world. We would much rather help you before with a quick search than after the fact when you have been hustled. We are very good at background and deep web searches. But regardless, we are here to help either way. So let us help you. We love to help the bad guy lose and the good guy win.
Investigreat, LLC is a recognized full service Private Investigation Agency that is fully licensed, insured and bonded, handling cases all over Connecticut as well as Queens NY, Brooklyn NY, Bronx NY, New York City, Staten Island and Long Island NY. Terri, along with her husband Adam, have been working cases for Legal Teams, Insurance Companies, Private Businesses, Municipalities, School Systems and general investigation services for the public since 1992.
Investigreat, LLC | Private Investigators serving Connecticut, Long Island City, Jamaica NY, Brooklyn NY and Queens NY | Office Numbers: 860-899-1710 or 718-412-1845 | Text: 718-309-1269
*Please note – This blog is our opinion and not meant to be construed as legal advice. Always consult an Attorney for legal advice.