It’s not unusual: my unexpected evening with NOT Tom Jones
Sarah Morgan Jones
It all started when, quite out of the blue, I got a follow on Twitter from Tom Jones. I looked and laughed then looked again.
Looked like the real deal but then I noticed he only had 62 followers. And no blue tick. Definitely carried the whiff of a scam.
‘I’ve made it, lads’, I signalled to my teammates, and sent them a screen shot along with the obligatory laughing emoji.
Quick-draw-McGraw colleague David Owens fired back the real Tom Jones profile with 602k followers and I laughed and hit report. But I was half tempted to see what ‘Tom’ had to say.
I’ve seen women all over social media have strange men, often declaring themselves military men, slide into their DMs or follow and seemingly adore them, but a straight up celebrity like this one?
I decided to play along. I mean, who wouldn’t be excited to be followed by Tom Jones? So I sent him an excited ‘Hiya!’ fan message.
Starting with a crass joke about being an ‘enormous’ fan (well, I didn’t know how long it would go on…), I engaged with NOT Tom Jones, scattering song titles and lyrics where I remembered, along the way.
He didn’t pick them up at any stage. Nor did he smell a rat when I posted a picture of Cher, claiming it was me. Was he a bot? Maybe… but his increasing irritation at my straight up comments rather suggested a human.
Disappointingly, it went very much the way I expected (although no body parts were seen, which is a definite bonus). He was obsessed with my age, marital and maternal status. But mainly my age.
He worried when I went quiet (I was busily taking screenshots before he blocked me), resisted my declared enthusiasm to jump on a plane or into an Uber, and, quite recklessly, told me to calm down.
As I got bored with the game, I told him I was a ‘journalist investigating fake social media accounts’ and he instantly thought I meant him. But he carried on, nonetheless.
I asked him how long he spent online every day hitting on random women, and I asked him if was it lucrative – do women actually send him money?
Reader, they do.
He got a bit grumpy after that.
So, here’s my evening with NOT Tom Jones, word for word.
Maybe get a cup of tea.
While this exchange was quite amusing, but probably inadvisable, online scams, fraud and cybercrime can have a devastating impact.
Fake social media accounts are created to impersonate, extort, harass, to falsify and to harm a person’s reputation.
This imposter was very clearly not Tom Jones and when I went in, I knew what I was dealing with. Afterwards, I blocked, reported and his account has now been removed.
Scams take all sorts of shapes and can be very ingenious, leaving victims not only out of pocket but feeling embarrassed and ashamed that they ‘fell for it’.
It’s very easy to think that we would never get caught up in something like that, when looking in from a distance, but very often the wool is easily pulled.
When people are already isolated and lonely, turning to the internet for company and interaction, the vulnerability can be increased.
A particularly cynical tactic is romance fraud, during which scammers will spend endless hours developing a relationship with and grooming their victims, playing on their need for affection.
Action Fraud says: “Romance scams involve people being duped into sending money to criminals who go to great lengths to gain their trust and convince them that they are in a genuine relationship. They use language to manipulate, persuade and exploit so that requests for money do not raise alarm bells.
“These requests might be highly emotive, such as criminals claiming they need money for emergency medical care, or to pay for transport costs to visit the victim if they are overseas. Scammers will often build a relationship with their victims over time.”
Follow the link to their website for more details about types of online fraud, warning signs and scammers, and how to report it.
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