Responding to a shocked email from a friend, Nicole Perkin, aged 20, discovered photographs of herself online advertising sex work.
Pictures she had posted on her personal Instagram account were being used in a fake social media profile pretending to be hers. It advertised a scam website promising explicit images of Nicole in exchange for money and personal information.
“I felt so shocked,” said Nicole, from Aberdeenshire in Scotland. “I was scared of what everyone would think of me.”
She moved quickly to have the fake account removed, but says, “I still get people messaging me saying, ‘I’ll send you money if you send me some photos and videos.’”
Instagram declares that it blocks millions of fake accounts every day, but the particular scam that targeted Nicole is nevertheless affecting more and more young women.
Heather MacFarlane, 23, also from Scotland, is another victim “It’s horrible and it shouldn’t happen,” she says. “Instagram needs to force users to verify their identity before they can set up an account.”
In a wider sense, cyber fraud is increasing by leaps and bounds as more and more people go online for such tasks as shopping and banking during the coronavirus pandemic.
Official figures show that online shopping fraud increased by 27 per cent to 77,670 crimes in the year up to September 2020, apparently due to increased e-commerce during lockdowns.
Banking fraud showed a staggering 61 per cent increase to 61,752 crimes, also because more people used their computers and telephone due to stay-at-home orders.
Other online crimes included a 53 per cent rise in hackings and a 40 per cent rise in malware incidents.
Often, the victims of the cyber crooks are elderly people who are unsure about the world of electronic communications and tend to believe that anyone who telephones or emails them must be official and therefore honest.
I know of an old man who gave £5,000 to thieves, thinking he was helping his bank to trap a dishonest employee. An elderly lady lost £500 but won’t talk about it.
That attitude can be a problem for counter-fraud officers. A spokesman for Action Fraud said, “Falling victim to fraud can have devastating consequences. It can also cause people to feel too ashamed or embarrassed to report their experience, but it’s really important that they do.
“This allows us to shut down fraudulent telephone numbers, websites and email addresses, preventing more people from falling victim.”
A few weeks ago, this column told of great deeds being done by old people in Britain, and commented that “there is admiration for senior citizens in this country.”
Kenyan reader Njeri Aseneka begs to differ, suggesting the British attitude is “disdain” rather than “admiration,” at least where ordinary, non-heroic, old folk are concerned.
Why, she asks, do the British put their precious seniors into old people’s homes to live out their last years in the company of strangers? “Don’t they have families they have raised who owe them the warmth of family in their sunset years?”
Such attitudes trouble many in Africa, Njeri says, “To us, old is truly gold.”
Reasons you hear for putting old folks into nursing or residential homes include: they cannot care for themselves; looking after them places undue emotional and eco0nomic strain on their adult, usually working, children; the care they need is of a professional nature.
No, that doesn’t sound too convincing to me either. When I was a boy and ventured into other people’s houses, there was invariably an old granny or grandad in the corner by the fire, sipping a cup of tea. Society changes, and not always for the better.
Patient: “How much to have this tooth pulled?” Dentist: “Fifty pounds.” Patient: “Fifty pounds, just for a few minutes work!” Dentist: “Well, I can extract it really slowly if you prefer.”
Clive and John ordered fish in a restaurant and when the two fish arrived one was larger than the other. “Please help yourself,” said Clive. “Thank you,” said John, and took the biggest fish.
Clive was not impressed by this display of bad manners and said, “If you had offered me the first choice, I would have taken the smaller fish.” Said John, “So what are you complaining about? You’ve got the smallest fish, haven’t you.”