COLORADO SPRINGS — Networking and meeting new people through online sites and dating apps has never been easier. During the pandemic in many cases it was the preferred way to meet people and that trend has continued. Fraud investigators say it’s created a target rich environment for scammers.
”What concerns me about Romance scams is some of the incredible statistics that I’ve seen in the last six months. About 25 million people are on Romance sites, so this is commonplace now.,” said CSU Global’s “Dr. Fraud” J. Michael Skiba.
Last year, IC3 the FBI’s online reporting site received complaints from more than 24,000 romance scam victims totalling a record $956 million in losses, ranking it as the third costliest fraud in the country.
”And really there’s a couple reasons for that. You have a segment of the population that is a younger group, let’s say 18 to 25 that is moving into that area where they’re using those romance sites regularly, more than going out and meeting people,” said Skiba. ”It’s a lot easier to look at 100 people a night as opposed to going out to a location”
While many online dating apps and sites are working to do a better job to freeze and remove fake profiles operated by scammers. The threat is still very real and tends to play out in the same ways for victims.
”The engagement will start and then it’ll slowly escalate and escalate and before you know it they’re asking for personal information from you and ultimately some sort of currency,” said Skiba.
Cliff Pierre says he was targeted by a romance scam and it wasn’t even on a dating platform, but in a random text.
”You don’t want to do anything with it because I know that sort of thing can be dangerous,” said Pierre.
He says he uncovered the scam doing a reverse image search on a photo texted to him.
“Once I found out it was apparently a phishing scam or something I blocked the number,” said Pierre.
Dr. Fraud says unfortunately not everyone is that savvy and fraudsters are ready to blackmail their victims if they get their hands on sensitive material.
”Before they know it, it’s too late. They’ve released a compromising photo, they said something in a text they shouldn’t have said and then the threat is posed back to them, we are going to post this picture or else,” said Skiba.
Even with the startling statistics, romance scams are believed to be some of the most under-reported because of the shame and embarrassment that can come with the experience for victims. If you find yourself in a situation like this it’s important to report it and ask for help.
If you believe you’ve been targeted by one of these scams you can contact your local law enforcement office and can file a report at https://www.stopfraudcolorado.gov/.
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