LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Romance, cryptocurrency, and investment scams are skyrocketing.
Highly sophisticated, highly educated people, as well as large corporations, are increasingly being scammed.
Yvonne Harlan, 68, had nearly given up on dating when friends suggested she try the dating website Tinder.
Harlan said almost immediately a man reached out to her and the two began communicating through text, and then phone calls.
“He would call me at seven o’clock in the morning, 11 o’clock at night, it’s strange when someone is calling you regularly, and texts, you sort of begin to anticipate them,” she said.
But the first red flag came when he canceled their in-person meeting.
Harlan said he had an excuse, and a few weeks later he asked her to help sell his father’s European estate.
“I thought, that’s a real switch, you know usually they are asking for money they don’t want you to receive money. I did some research and come to find out that is money laundering that I could be subject to criminal penalties,” she told 8 News Now.
She told him, no, and about a month later, after he professed his love for her, she didn’t hear from him, for two days.
“I wrote to him and asked if everything was o.k.? He said, no, and he told me there was an explosion at his work site, and all the computers were destroyed, and this machine fell on me and I broke my leg. He sent me a picture of him in a hospital in a hospital gown,” Harlan said.
She told 8 News Now the man then urged her to help him by selling his computers-
and that’s when Harlan said she called it off.
“I blocked him and deleted all of his texts and everything, I was so angry and upset,” she said. “Looking back on it, I didn’t think I was lonely and desperate, but I’d been working from home for two years, and maybe I was.”
David McClellan runs a company called Social Catfish, an online investigation service that verifies information about the people many meet online.
Social Catfish has been tracking scam trends for the past five years.
Using data from the FBI’s internet crime complaint center and the FTC, along with a poll of more than 3,000 romance scam victims.
He found that, unlike other scams that happen quickly, romance scams can last, on average, six to nine months.
And 75% of romance scam victims have some form of a college education.
“It’s incredible the amount of victims that feel they’re in a real relationship,” McClellan said. “They’re breeding you to become the person, they’re isolating you from friends and family, building these relationships, the persona they’ve given you.”
More than one-third of romance scams originate on social media where scammers create fake profiles, to engage.
“People are victimized all over the internet, on social media, Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, top social networks,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of emerging apps, that you can talk to someone online, even words with friends, where you can chat back and forth with strangers, we’re seeing scammers target those.”
If the scammer can’t get money from you, then they change up the playbook, gaining the victim’s trust to unknowingly money launder, or invest in what turns out to be a bogus crypto app.
McClellan also added that keeping accounts private can also help, and advises everyone to be cautious of strangers who randomly send messages.
Clicking on links and accepting or sending money is also not recommended.
In the end, it wasn’t money that Harlan lost, but pride.
“You’ve gambled and lost, you’d been made a fool of, and you really kind of deserved it, because all along the way I knew there were red flags,” Harlan added.