People who use the POF dating website hoping to find companionship may get a lot more than they bargained for, and not in a good way, the Johnston Police Department warned.
A recent post on the department’s Facebook page alerted residents to a scam in which con artists use the site, formerly known as Plenty of Fish, to set up an extortion scheme, and imitate police officers in order to do it.
The scheme is mostly aimed at men, Lt. Tyler Tompkins told the Johnston Times in a telephone interview. Two victims so far have reported the scam to the police department, but it is possible there are more victims who have not gone to the police.
He explained that the scammers set up accounts on POF and then send private messages to members looking for dates, asking to be contacted on their cell phones. Once phone contact is established, thus removing communication from the POF platform, the con artists send their “potential dates” provocative and even nude photos.
After a bit of conversation, the “mark” begins getting calls from someone identifying themselves as a police officer, telling the person that the photos are of an underage girl and they are going to be arrested. Follow-up phone calls supposedly come from the girl’s father, who offers to forget about charges for a sum of money, and then from “police” who offer to mediate, collecting the money for the father in return for not arresting the hopeful suitor. They usually use the name of an actual officer so that if the recipient checks, it looks legitimate.
“People should know that the police do not collect money from people, and they don’t act as intermediaries,” Tompkins said. “We are law enforcement only. We don’t collect fines; the courts do. And any mediation between parties is a matter for the civil courts, not the police.”
Tompkins encourages victims, or those who just suspect they might become one, to contact the police.
“We always tell people if something seems strange or not right to contact us,” he said. “The saying now is, ‘If you see something, say something.’”
And if you hear something, say something.