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The messages usually arrive late at night.
“UR beautiful, I want to be your sugar daddy,” they read.
Over the past few years, I’ve received dozens of nearly identical missives from random men on the internet. They collect like dryer lint in the dreaded “requests” folder of my Instagram messages, where sketchy online correspondence goes to die – or at least in my case it does.
In this economy, I’d be lying if I said I never fantasized about having a generous benefactor to pay my bills. But I know that these guys sliding into my DMs are not it.
In lieu of your stereotypical older wealthy gentleman, the photos attached to these accounts usually belong to young guys who looked like they just rolled out of bed.
To quote my friend who’s also received her fair share of these requests, “I’m a successful professional woman. Why would I need some dude who looks like he still lives in his basement to fund my lifestyle?”
That’s beside the point because my gut tells me that these “sugar daddies” are actually “sugar scammers.”
As I expected, my experience is anything but unique.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center, romance fraud accounted for the second highest amount of fraud-related dollar loss in 2021. Sugar Baby scams are just one facet of this – designed to exploit a growing segment of online dating known as “sugaring” where younger people (Sugar Babies) connect with older partners (Sugar Daddies or Sugar Mamas) who are willing to subsidize their lifestyle in exchange for companionship.
The scam often begins with a message on a social media site like Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and can unfold in a multitude of ways. The conning Sugar Daddy or Sugar Momma may ask for your banking information upfront to “transfer the funds.”
Alternatively, according to a press release from ESET, a leading global digital security company, other “commonalities include the Sugar Daddy or Sugar Momma scammer promising a large sum of money to the victim, but a small payment is required first. It could be to cover administrative costs, or the “large sum” from the scammer is tied up in legalities and the up-front money will help free it up. But in the end, the scammer takes that payment and vanishes, with no payments made to their Sugar Baby.”
The rising cost of living paired with job loss and loneliness brought on by the pandemic has made it that much easier for these con-artists to ensnare unsuspecting, vulnerable victims.
“The world can be a lonely and confusing place, and for people seeking a special friend it can seem even more so,” shares Tony Anscombe, chief security evangelist with ESET, a leading global digital security company, in a recent press release. “But just because you are on the lookout for someone doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. Quite the opposite, in fact. If you are feeling vulnerable emotionally, double down on your caution when you are online. Be skeptical of everything and protect your personal information at all costs.”
So, how does one protect oneself from these Sugar Daddies and Mamas gone sour? The experts at ESET have a few tips.
Be suspicious of anyone offering “free money” – there’s no such thing – and no matter how much you need the cash, never, ever give out your personal information or bank details to someone you’ve met online. If you’re not sure someone is who they say they are, Google reverse image search is your new best friend.
Lastly, if a potential Sugar Daddy or Sugar Mama wants you to pay them a fee (“to cover the expense of transferring money”) or needs your personal information (i.e. credit card or bank account numbers) to continue the interaction, run in the other direction. To borrow the words of J-Lo, your love shouldn’t cost a thing.