Catfishing is a growing trend in the cyberworld as scammers create fake profiles to fish people into relationships for love and money.
Sheryl Abrams couldn’t see beyond her own feelings. But she quickly got a reality check and was almost tricked into giving up her hard earned cash.
As a single mother, Sheryl Abrams has been looking for love and thought she met the man of her dreams.
“I was talking to him. We actually did a video chat,” Abrams said.
The Ashford resident signed up with an online dating website and connected with a 52-year-old man posing as a military service member overseas.
“He was on patrol and he was looking out for the kids in Syria,” said Abrams. “He said that…um…he was a wealthy man. He said he would take care of me once he got to the states.”
But her conversations went from sweet to suspicious.
“On one of his patrols, they found gold bars,” said Abrams. “He had asked me months ago to try and get him money, so, he could ship them home and I didn’t, I just didn’t have the money.”
A few months later, he tried again.
“He wired $7,270 into my account,” said Abrams.
The man then asked her to transfer that money to someone, he insisted, would help him ship the gold bars.
“The bank thought it was unusual. So, they did an investigation and found it fraudulent,” said Abrams.
Abrams is one of the 40 million Americans using dating websites.
Romance scams are growing. Experts say scammers often use phony profiles to lure victims without ever meeting up and many people are falling for it.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were 8,500 reported romance scams that resulted in $33 million lost in 2015. Those numbers have gone up dramatically, with more than 21,000 people reporting scams that resulted in $143 million lost in 2018.
The median reported loss is $2,600 about seven times higher than other types of fraud, according to the FTC.
“You don’t really know who you’re interacting with on line. All you see is a picture and maybe some information about that person,” said Abraham Baggili, a cyber security expert and assistant dean of engineering at the Tagliatela College of Engineering at the University of New Haven.
“It will be on the rise unless we really try to come up with a mechanism for truly validating the identity of the individual that’s behind the computer, behind the phone,” said Baggaili.
So, experts say do some research.
“Be smart about how you approach the person on the other side. What your sending them. What you’re telling them,” said Baggili.
Daters beware, that open heart, can burn a whole in your wallet. Fortunately, Sheryl didn’t fall for the scheme.
“It could do some damage to your life in a lot of different ways,” said Abrams.
Here’s how you can recognize a scam artist:
- wants to leave the dating site immediately and use personal email.
- claims love in a heartbeat.
- claims to be from the U.S, but is traveling or working overseas.
- plans to visit, but is prevented by a traumatic event or bad business deal.
You may lose your heart, but you don’t have to lose your shirt, too.
Here’s what you can do about it:
- don’t wire money to cover travel.
- medical emergencies
- hotel bills
- hospital bills for a child or other relative.
- visas or other official documents
- or losses from a temporary financial setback
You can report relationship scams to The Federal Trade Commission, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint center and the state Attorney General’s office.