Gary Allman of the Diocese of West Missouri writes:
Without realizing it I’ve innocently become embroiled in organized crime.
There, I’ve said it. It sounds sort of exciting as we are tempted to think of the scenarios that play out in the movies. At the same time, when put like that, it also sounds rather mundane.
There is no scurrilous money laundering, even though I live in the Ozarks. I’m not being blackmailed, nor have I or my family (thus far) been threatened. In fact, I’m one of the lucky ones. The criminals haven’t taken anything of real value from me, and more importantly, I’ve discovered their nefarious activities. I know what they are doing, and for the past several years I’ve been doing what I can do to make their crimes more difficult.
The bad news is that most of the victims in my position don’t, and possibly never will, know that they are victims. Which is why I ask, are you sure you’re not a victim? You may not know it.
My story only represents one side of the equation. There are victims on the other side who, if they don’t suspect the criminals’ intentions in time, will lose both financially and emotionally. It’s a modern take on a crime that’s as old as the hills. According to the FTC, this crime has cost Americans some $143M in the last year. In my opinion that’s a huge underestimation.
What are these crimes? They’re commonly known as Romance Scams or Catfishing.
In my case what’s being stolen are photographs of me. The pictures are used to create fake profiles used in online social media, games, and dating accounts. The purpose of these accounts, which use my photos, is to defraud people. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that people like me can do to stop these criminals from getting ahold of your online pictures, except perhaps by never appearing on the Internet in the first place.