An open challenge.

What dating sites will freely admit there’s a global problem with romance scammers and offer up advice on how to spot and deal with those scammers?  Should we place bets on what sites actually respond to the challenge?

Enough is enough!

Seriously, I’m sick of people ignoring the facts the site’s phone numbers are for the media or law enforcement only and the time in the UK is NOT the same as the time in the USA.  Next person who wakes me up in the early hours of the morning by calling me because they don’t care about anyone but themselves is going to get yelled at and hung up on!

The Kyle Files

So finally they showed the preview for the episode of “The Kyle Files” to be aired on Feb. 12th that talks about online scams.  It also features yours truly as a part of it.  Here’s how it happened:

A few days after the Sun article on baiting was published, I received a call asking if I’d be willing to be interviewed for a new prime time TV show on ITV starting in January.  They’d seen the article and wanted to have me on it.  On the second call, I was told what the show was.  My wife freaked!  “What will the neighbours think if they see Jeremy Kyle knocking our door?” she worried.  So plans were made for me to drive to Manchester to do the interview.  Luckily I had company for the long journey in the shape of my good friend Chris.  After setting up my laptop, Jeremy Kyle arrived at the studio and we chatted a while before the interview.  It all went pretty well.  I discussed what we do on the site, explained why we do it and we called some scammers.  I thought no more of it until a few days before my trip to Vegas, when the studio rang again and asked if I would be willing to do some more shooting.  We agreed to meet two days later.

The weather was pretty bad, so they offered to pay for a train to Manchester and put me up for the night in a hotel rather than my having to travel for over 8 hours.  After getting lost looking for the film crew (I’d left the train station at a different exit to the one they assumed I was at, so I had to walk a full circle to find the right entrance) we finally met at around 2:30.  They filmed me walking through the street, sitting on a bench and watching people, plus I had to walk into the cafe where the first part of filming would be three times.  Another few hours of filming in the cafe later, we walked to the studio to do even more filming, this time with Jeremy Kyle.  I should say at this point that he turned out to be a pretty nice guy.  He’d remembered what we’d spoken about the first time and we had a pretty friendly chat while they were setting up.  Another few hours of shooting was broken up for everyone to watch the latest episode of the show on TV, and we wrapped up at about 9:30.  We’d managed to call two scammers this time, and both calls went really well.  One was to a scammer selling nonexistent gold, and one to a scammer who claimed he had a preloaded ATM card for us.  So now, to my hotel for a well earned sleep before setting off for home the next day.  I was still in a daze, and left my bag with spare shirts in on the station bench.  Thank you to the kind lady who came running after me with it.  I’d have been shirtless going to Vegas otherwise.

While I was in Vegas, the emails continued with more questions about what kind of scammers the trophy pictures I’d given them were and explaining the stories behind them.  After I got back, we had to work on getting their legal department to clear the calls by showing them absolute proof the calls we made were to scammers and not innocent people.  Finally, everything was done and all I had to do was wait until the show.  That brings us to last night, when they showed a preview of the next show.  The show I’d be on.  Sure enough, as part of it you see him talking to one of the scammers we’d called the second time.

Now all we need to do is wait until they show the episode.  Remember, the few minutes they’ll (hopefully) show me for is the result of nine hours of filming, almost twenty hours of travel and a whole bunch of emails and phone calls between us.  It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out.  It was certainly a pleasant and rewarding experience no matter what happens.

One funny thing to note, Jeremy Kyle has NO CLUE when it comes to computers.  I had to stifle a snigger when he tried to end a call to a scammer through Skype by slamming his hand on the laptop’s keyboard.

Spam.

Much as we hate scammers, spammers are becoming just as much of a pain to us lately.  Our blogs are overflowing with spam messages trying to get posted.  We do our best to moderate every comment, and 99% of them are spams.

See an example of a secret shopper scam below.

From: “Richard Locke” <Mholtz42@aol.com>
Subject: Job Offer
Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary=”x8f5HIAanTLhGX33vCKe1eoKSKAHLf=_O90″
MIME-Version: 1.0
Reply-To: richardlocke10023@gmail.com

Hello,
I am Richard Locke, Recruitment Specialist with Sights On Service Inc.“We have a mystery shopping assignment in your area and we would like you to participate”. Secret Shopper® has been in business since 1990. We are a charter member of the Mystery Shopping Provider’s Association (MSPA), the professional trade association for the Mystery Shopping industry. There is no charge to apply to be a Secret Shopper® and information is protected. Secret Shopper® is accepting applications for qualified individuals to become mystery shoppers. Its fun and rewarding, and you choose when and where you want to shop. You are never obligated to accept an assignment. There is no charge to become a shopper and you do not need previous experience. After you sign up, you will have access to training materials via e-mail, fax or postal mail.

ABOUT US
Secret Shopper® is the premier mystery shopping company serving clients across America and Canada with over 500,000 shoppers available and ready to help businesses better serve their customers. Continual investment in the latest internet and communication technologies coupled with over 16 years of know-how means working with Secret Shopper® is a satisfying and rewarding experience. Secret shopping as seen on ABC NEWS, NBC NEWS, L.A.TIMES.Since 1990, Secret Shopper® has delivered actionable intelligence to our clients, helping to drive exceptional bottom-line performance. Nearly 1,000 shoppers have registered this week, performing millions of mystery shops throughout North America and the Caribbean. When coupled with our continual investment in the latest internet and communication technologies, you can rest assured that working with Secret Shopper® is a satisfying and rewarding experience.Secret Shopper® is also a charter member of the industry trade association, the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA). Benefit from partnering with America’s premier mystery shopping company. We have been building our tradition of excellence for two decades.

Stores and organizations such as The Gap, Walmart, Pizza Hut and Banks. One amongst many others pay for Secret Shoppers to shop in their establishments and report their experiences. On top of being paid for shopping you are also allowed to keep purchases for free. Secret Shopper® NEVER charge fees to the shopper. Training, tips for improvement, and shopping opportunities are provided free to registered shoppers.Mystery shoppers are either paid a pre-arranged fee for a particular shop, a reimbursement for a purchase or a combination of both. Secret Shopper® has available for immediate assignment an inspection of the customer service of any walmart in your area. You are to shop secretly. This fee will be paid upfront. During this shopping, you will visit a location and make several observations as regards the customer service. You will be required to interact with the shopper clerk. You may conduct the shop alone or as a couple. The assignment will pay $350.00 per duty and you can be able to get up to 2- 3 duties in a week depending on how fast you are able to execute the first assignment. Kindly Fill Out the application form below and we will get back to you shortly with the assignment:

PERSONAL INFORMATION:
First Name:
Middle Name:
Last Name:
Street Address:
City, State, Zip Code:
Cell Phone Number:
Home Phone Number:
Age:
Current Occupation:
Email Address:
We await your urgent response. Thank you your willingness to work with us. We look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,
Richard Locke
Secret Shopper®

It’s all about balance.

This is related to several conversations I’ve had with people recently about what we do on the site.  Helping people is a good thing.  It’s undeniably a good thing.  When you know you’ve stopped someone from sending money to a scammer, it warms the heart.  However, it’s also incredibly hard to do.  We speak to people on a daily basis who are scared, confused, even suicidal.  None of us have training for that, and even if we did it would still take a toll on a person.  Now add in the writing to scammers, reporting scammers, checking all the posts and forms.  It’s hard.  It can seriously leave a person burned out.  So what do we do?  For many of us, this is our life.  We spend every spare moment we have doing this.  We have to find a balance.  A balance between serious and funny, between the online world and real life, between helping people and helping ourselves.  Sometimes we need to remember that we matter as much as the people we help on our site.  Sometimes we need to stop, take a breath and enjoy life.  It’s short enough as it is.  We need to make the most of it.  If that means speaking to less scammers, spending less time on the forum or simply taking some time out to enjoy a movie, then that’s what we need to do.  Most of us find that balance.  For some it takes longer than others, but we all find it eventually.

January stats.

January saw over 150,000 unique visitors come to our site, and over 1.3 million page views.  That’s around a 20% increase on this time last year.  We’re expecting those numbers to continue rising.