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Romance Scam: Looking for love and targeted by con artists

No date for Valentine’s Day? While online dating makes it easy to look for a companion these days, it also makes those looking for love, easy targets for con artists.

Swiping right might put you in touch with that handsome man or beautiful woman, or it could put you right into the electronic grasp of a romance scammer.

Melanie, who lives on the east coast of Florida,  knows firsthand after getting ‘catfished.” That’s when the con artists create fake online profiles to ‘hook’ people looking for love.

“He matched and then like, like, at first I thought, like, he didn’t, you know, he said, Hello, he got my phone number. And, and then he disappeared,” said Melanie.

What started on Match.com quickly moved to phone calls and text messages, but when Melanie tried to check “Clive” out and ask about his family, “Everybody was dead. They had ex-wives that were dead. They had parents that are dead, their children were dead, basically. So there was no information and you can’t find them online anywhere.”

But Melanie continued to engage, playing detective on the side. When she did a reverse image of the photos he sent, they came back to an actor, and “Clive” claimed he’d had his identity stolen. The relationship continued added Melanie, “He was like writing me like long love letters.”

He asked her to buy him an iPhone and meet him in Alaska. “I didn’t really know what his endgame was, like why would he ask me to go to Alaska? Why would he have you know, what was his endgame? Was he gonna kill me there? I have no idea,” Melanie added.

Melanie never went on that trip or gave “Clive” any money.

But Rebecca D’Antonio is out $100,000 after her encounter with “Matt”. She said, “He and I, like really connected and had a lot in common.”

She had a year-long relationship with her online beau that started on OkCupid. They exchanged texts and he wrote her love notes, but they never met, never Facetimed, never video chatted. D’Antonio added, “His video camera on his computer was broken. Ah, yeah.”

Dinner with one of her close friends pulled her out of the abyss and saved her life. A relieved D’Antonio commented, “by the end of it, I was, you know, filing bankruptcy because discover card was suing me and I was about to be homeless being evicted from my apartment and was suicidal.”

Sadly, neither of their stories is unique according to Bryan Oglesby with the Better Business Bureau, “There’s a lot of people out there looking for love. And these online sites are legitimate sites. We just want to look for love in the right places know the telltale signs of the scammers. So the way the romance scam works very well is these scammers will isolate you from family and friends, they’ll ask you not to speak of your relationship.”

Many times, the person claims to be in the military or living in another country. They have clever excuses as to why they cannot meet you in person.

But once they build that bond with you, the conversation quickly turns to money. Then, you losing plenty of it. Still, there’s often a bigger loss according to the BBB, “The biggest thing is they drained their emotions. They have this strong in-depth relationship. They fall in love with someone they believe to be a person and when they find out it’s not someone that’s true.”

This is a very underreported crime. Only about 10 percent of victims file complaints.

We reached out to Match.com and OkCupid.

Match referred us to its website: “All safety and security procedures are outlined on our Match Group site here.

OkCupid provided a similar response: “You can learn about our safety policies and tools here.”

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Reporter:Rich Kolko
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