The headline was hard to miss – and too salacious to skip the story. Here, in nutshell, goes the story that appeared in a leading Odia daily under the catchy title “Angel Priya bhabi asithile; dekhile Sukuti Sahu” (“Came in search of Angel Priya, Found Sukuti Sahu instead”) today. Attracted by the beautiful profile picture of a girl from Puri, a youth from West Bengal befriended her on Facebook. After the customary rounds of chatting, he, along with a friend, landed in Puri to meet her, but she turned out to be a far cry from the dream girl her profile suggested. As if this disillusionment was not shattering enough, both the amorous youth and his buddy had to undergo the nightmare of being soundly thrashed by his ‘lady love’ and three of her male friends - and robbed of all their belongings – to end up in the hospital!
‘Facebook’ regulars would certainly know that Angel Priya – and other similarly outlandish sounding names – stands for fake profiles of people, who hide behind their assumed identities to carry out their nefarious designs on the popular social networking site (And no prizes for guessing who the Sukuti Sahus!). Knowing the average Indian man’s weakness for a pretty face from the opposite sex, they would post pictures of beautiful girls ferreted out of the internet, lead the man up the garden path with lovey-dovey talk on the Messenger before revealing their real intention. [The smarter ones among them, however, do not use such suspicious sounding names to zero in their prey. They would rather use perfectly normal names to create trust!]
Some of those hiding behind fake profile pictures would choose their targets carefully, engage them in love-talk and the start blackmailing them into coughing up money by threatening to make the amorous exchanges public. If the person has a reputation to safeguard and a family to hide it from, he will have no choice but to pay up! [I have no idea, however, if the victims are always the male of the species.]
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The intention behind this elaborate charade, however, is not always duping or looting the person who is foolish enough to fall into the trap, as this columnist found out recently. Surfing the Facebook one evening, I found a friend request from a young girl. After finding a few close friends in the list of ‘mutual friends’ on her profile, I accepted the request. The new found young ‘friend’ was on Messenger in next to no time. “Hi, can we chat?” she began rather innocently. But what she said after I gave the go-ahead raised my hackles. “Though old, you are handsome. I like you. In fact, I like old people.” Having been familiar with the ways of Facebook for a while now, I immediately became suspicious and sought to wriggle out of the conversation. It was then that she dropped the bombshell: she was not a ‘she’, but a ‘he’ in search of a same-sex relationship!
There are some among these fake identity holders, who are essentially pranksters out to have some ‘fun’ in cyberspace. They would just pick on someone, entice him with some ‘come-hither’ talk on the chat box and enjoy the fun.
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With more and more Indians using smart phones, the dangers of falling victim to the Angel Priyas of cyberspace have increased manifold these days. The ubiquitous smart phone has also dismantled the rural-urban divide making it possible for them to choose their victims from a much larger geographical spread. One, therefore, needs to be extremely cautious while befriending people on the social media. Discretion, one has to remember, is the better part of amorous advances in the big, bad world of social media.