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Opinion: Airport trends and avoiding ‘catfish’ scams

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Airports are an epicenter, a topic of conversation and a picture of a city’s identity. Sometimes, you just have to look down to notice.

In Springfield, the airport carpet of all things has created a persona of its own.

The steps we take entering the gates and in the terminal at Springfield-Branson National Airport reflect back to us the waterways that run through our region, and the stones and grasses that intersect with them. It’s become a bit of a persona on social media; think selfies.

Several years ago, the airport made it a contest, netting posts with the hashtag #SGFcarpetselfie as far as the United Kingdom.

Now, let’s jump across the pond, a little to the north.

In Finland, a unique twist on a new name and signage is drawing some attention. They’re calling it a first in the world: naming the airport after all of its visitors.

The Helsinki Airport is bucking the trend of official names. You know, in honor of people of historical influence, i.e. the Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, the Liverpool John Lennon Airport in the U.K. and the John F. Kenney International Airport in New York.

Instead, the Helsinki Airport is naming itself after its passengers, as it completes an expansion and renews its future. Now, anyone visiting the Finnish airport can name it after themselves by literally adding their name to the official sign on the airport’s facade.

Leave the hashtag behind; your name is on the freaking building. Learn more at MyHelsinkiAirport.fi and following the hashtag #myhelsinkiairport.

‘Catfish’ criminals
Let’s transition to news of criminal business.

I had never heard of online romance scams until I received a news release on behalf of SocialCatfish.com. A study by the reverse look-up website found a record $304 million was lost to so-called romance scams in 2020 and Missouri ranks No. 16 with residents losing over $9.2 million. The study analyzed FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center data.

Here’s the hook: Holidays can make people feel lonely, and the threat by romance scammers is compounded during the pandemic when more people are looking for connections online. Dubbed the Most Targeted States for Romance Scams, the study found 339 victims in Missouri filed reports with the Federal Trade Commission, and the average loss per victim was $27,251. The numbers are likely higher, they say, considering the embarrassment in coming forward once scammed.

To help fight the fight, SocialCatfish.com offers these signs you are being “catfished” and how to void it:

  1. Will not meet in person or video chat. They keep finding excuses not to and may even send pictures of themselves with your name written on a piece of paper to prove their authenticity. Beware: These are often photoshopped.
  2. Asks to move away from the dating app. Throw caution if they want to move the conversation off the dating app and onto an online messaging platform, such as WhatsApp or Google Hangouts.
  3. Poor grammar but claims to be educated. OK, as a journalist, this one made me laugh. It’s spotted by messages littered with typos and grammatical errors followed by claims they’re highly educated. Gotta back it up.
  4. Confesses love quickly. Since a showering of love can gain one’s trust, consider it a red flag If the person moves too quickly and asks for the same. Despite what they say, scammers are strictly after your money.
  5. Asks for financial assistance. Let’s say they claim to have an emergency and ask you to send money. Or worse, they ask for your bank account information so they can deposit money into your account. Scam.

Despite the feelings of loneliness or love, common-sense principals apply: Never give money or personal information to anyone you have not met in person.

Springfield Business Journal Editorial Vice President Eric Olson can be reached at eolson@sbj.net.

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