NO one needs to be told there are many people on the Internet who are out to take advantage of you and your weaknesses.
There are individuals who prey on lonely people, young and old, getting into relationships with them and then blackmailing these vulnerable souls who had unwittingly shared certain compromising intimacies. This is the goal all along: find a way to extort money from the lonely person.
Anyway, for this column we will focus on the sugar daddy scam proliferating on social-media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. I am not sure if this scam is also on Facebook and TikTok but it’s very common on the two social networking services (SNS) mentioned. This discussion was inspired by a series of stories by a colleague who engaged in a conversation with a “sugar daddy” on Instagram out of curiosity.
On Twitter, don’t ever tweet with the words “sugar daddy” and “sugar baby” or you’ll get a DM from a “daddy account.” I don’t know how they target their victims on Instagram so I assume it is random.
There are actually web sites for sugar daddies and fetishists. I read an article that less than 20 percent of the sugar daddies on these SNS are who they say they are, so the rest are probably scammers. So the first red flag would be if the sugar daddy asks to communicate with you outside the web site.
Another red flag is when the sugar daddy asks the potential victim to prove their loyalty instead of engaging in romantic or affectionate conversation. Sugar daddy-sugar baby relationships are about power. A legitimate sugar daddy is usually looking for a lover, a companion or someone to talk to that he can pay. He is aware of this dynamic and has probably been scammed a number of times. He knows that loyalty is rare in this realm. The sign of loyalty these scammers will require is paying some money upfront in exchange for a weekly allowance of around $1,500.
The most common scam is for the sugar daddy to say they sent money to the sugar baby to their bank account. Usually, these transactions are done via Paypal. The bank account will show a check being deposited, or the sugar daddy could show a screenshot of the deposit (likely to be fake).
The next thing the sugar daddy will do is to ask the potential victim to send money to someone. This amount has been added to the deposit. After the victim has done this, the check issued for the deposit will usually bounce, or the screenshot will turn out to be fake. Or the scammer could use stolen credit cards to make the payment, so this could disappear in one or two days.
Another common scam is for the sugar daddy to ask the potential victim to buy a virtual gift card, usually ranging in amount from $5 to $100, after making the deposit.
These scams have become so widespread that in June 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned the US public about romance scams that target lonely older women and cash-strapped college students.
The FBI advised the public to not share bank information and use prepaid gift cards to send money to anyone on the Internet.
Another social-media platform that these scammers use to victimize young people is Snapchat. It’s the same modus: A sugar daddy or sugar mommy will pay attention to a teenager and send them money. They will then ask the victim to send part of that money to someone. After that, the money will disappear. While there are real sugar daddies looking for romance and attention on the Internet, there are more scammers than legitimate ones.
Also, be careful when replying to private messages from these scammers. Authorities believe they are part of a big network of scammers and their cohorts could harass you if you don’t play along with the sugar daddy scam.
Here are some red flags you should watch out for:
A real sugar daddy will usually send the cash via Paypal and not through a bank. An online overseas bank transaction is more complicated and requires a lot of steps.
When a potential sugar daddy asks for your bank details or access to your bank account, that is a red flag. They do not need those to send you money.
When a sugar daddy claims to be a white American but writes in broken English, the person is likely to be a scammer.
If you’re asked to send gift card codes in exchange for your sugar baby allowance, don’t do it.