A scammer asks for your login information. Don’t listen to that guy, he is not actually going to give you a $500 weekly allowance. / Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Morgan Huber
Opinion Editor

Looks like Nigerian princes everywhere just got an upgrade – or a downgrade. As a generation and as a society, we are almost constantly glued to our phones, particularly on social media. While platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat prove to be a great way to keep in contact, meet new people, and share information, certain corners of the internet provide evidence of the darker side of the world wide web.

Internet scams have been circulating for as long as the internet itself has existed. Ranging from email chains to requests for financial aid, these tricks come in all shapes and sizes. However – two particular types of scams seem to run rampant these days.

Especially common on platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram, it seems that suddenly everyone either wants to be your Bitcoin mentor or your sugar mommy, but why is this the case? 

Due to factors such as the pandemic and financial instability in our youth, hackers and scamming farms attempt to take advantage of young people through the promise of money and security. Having a caring adult figure or profiting off the trendy new cryptocurrency both may seem enticing to young adults, and so they become the primary disguise of greedy computer hogs. Reaching out to you by direct message, a scammer might take the disguise of a friendly old man or woman, or may use the account of a friend or classmate to seem convincing. After asking you to complete a few tasks, they successfully trick you into either giving them your social media account, or your money. Such a scheme is dangerous not only because of the risks, but because of how difficult they can be to trace. Cryptocurrency is nearly impossible to track, therefore once you “invest” your money, it disappears into the pockets of scammers. 

These scams in particular are the bane of my existence – once one account is blocked, another account finds me just as quickly. In addition, seeing my friends and classmates fall victim to Bitcoin scammers almost daily can be frustrating and deeply concerning. At this point, I have been reached out to repeatedly, with people asking me to be their sugar baby. No, I do not want to be your sugar baby – especially when you claim to be a 38-year-old widow in Atlanta when my IP address tracker tells me you are currently working out of a telecommunications complex in Lagos, Nigeria.

Bitcoin and sugar mommy scams are arguably one of the most annoying phenomena on the internet, and while we cannot ban every single account out there, being scammed by them is avoidable. Based on my personal experience and of those who have been baited and lived to tell the tale, here are some signs to look out for when given a offer you think you can’t refuse:

  1. 1. Broken English

The first tell-tale sign of a scammer is how they communicate with you. Since a majority of scammers are from non-English speaking countries, perfect English may be a rarity among these individuals. If they claim to be from the United States, or are using the account of someone you know to trick you, their language may reveal their true identity and intentions. When your honors college friend suddenly loses any grammar skills they may have learned since the fourth grade, it may be of great concern whether the person reaching out to you is actually your friend. However, their messages may not reveal who they really are through grammar, but also through using the ame cookie-cutter messages to lure wary users. Posting seemingly easy riddles on their story with the promise of money to those who answer it correctly, a friend or classmate you thought was a typical broke college student may ask for your CashApp tag or personal information. 

  1. 2. The signs are right in front of you

For everyone using the popular app Snapchat, a requirement for creating your account is to give your birthday. Not only used for age verification, your birthday is also displayed as your astrological sign when others view your profile. While there are 12 tropical zodiac signs, only a select few seem to pop up on the profiles of sugar mommy scammers. While having “mommy” or “daddy” in their display name might be a dead giveaway, other accounts can be differentiated through another tell-tale sign – by checking their zodiac. When creating an account, scammers may be too lazy to come up with a legitimate birthday, so instead they will use the date the account was created, or they may use January 1. Because of this, scammer profiles will either come up as a Capricorn, or as whatever the sign of today’s date is. This particular red flag only seems to work on Snapchat, of course, since other social media platforms do not always publicly display users’ birthdays, however it is still very useful when trying to determine if a person or offer is legit.

  1. 3. Asking you to change or provide your personal information

An offer of cash or a weekly allowance may seem enticing, but if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. A scammer may ask for your CashApp or Venmo, which may seem harmless enough. However, they usually claim that their bank will not let them use mobile apps, or that because it is a “business transaction,” they may need you to take extra steps to verify the deposit. As an alternative, they may send you a bounced check, or ask for you to provide your Instagram login information in order to do a mobile deposit. The thing is, you will not need another person to access your account to do a mobile deposit, which cannot even be done through Instagram anyway. Another method scammers use is to get you to change the email address attached to your account to one that they provided. By doing this, they may attempt to login with your username and click on “forgot password,” which will then send a password reset email. If this occurs, the scammer, and not you, will receive the email and be able to change the password in order to access the account. This may be an obvious tip at this point, or maybe people nowadays are just that gullible, but here is the main point – do not give anyone your personal information, it really is that simple.

  1. 4. Seeing double?

When a person is successfully hacked, the scammer may use that person’s account to scam their friends and followers. Since it is very common for scammers to change the email and password attached to that account to ensure only they have access, it may be difficult if not impossible to gain one’s account back. If a person creates a new account after being hacked, this could be a dead giveaway for the person using their old account as a scamming tool. If you suspect that someone has been hacked or is being impersonated, reach out to them or someone they are close to. While it may be difficult to regain control of their account, knowing they are cared for and understood can be a relief in a truly frustrating situation. If you reach out to someone and they claim they were hacked, then it is the ugly truth – the person who you thought was your friend is, in fact, a scammer. 

Remember – do not click on that link, and certainly do not give someone your personal information, or change any information in your account to an email or phone number that you will not have access to. Turn on two-factor authentication, look for the signs, and check in on those who may have been affected. Your privacy and safety on the internet matters, but you can only remain secure if you use your common sense and logic to lead the way. Stay safe out there, readers!