Thousands of Americans fall victim to “romantic scams” each year.


Some say love is blind, but for the tens of thousands who fall for love scams each year, it is love that blinds them to being scammed out of serious money.

In the past year alone, scammers have made more than $1 billion from unsuspecting victims, according to the FBI.

Romance scams usually start with online dating or social media apps and usually follow a pattern. The scammer usually comes forward with vows of love and maybe even promises of early marriage. In turn, the scammer is charming and nice, but plans to meet in person always seem to fail.

Finally, the online advertiser finds himself in a sudden crisis that can only be solved with cash. The victim is all too often willing to do anything to help, including charging their bank account.

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“I was in such a haze of emotional and financial abuse because it’s emotional and financial rape that’s happening to you and of course you blame yourself for a lot of it,” said fraud victim Rebecca D’Antonio.

D’Antonio says her scammer did his homework and used things she revealed on her online dating profile to pinpoint her weaknesses.

“I thought I was smart about filling it in because I’d been through some bad relationships, so I basically filled out my profile with the idea that this is the package I come in, this is what I put up with.” in a relationship, that’s what I can’t take in a relationship because I’ve been trying to avoid a lot of the drama that can happen.What I didn’t realize was that I was giving scammers a roadmap to get around around what would have been a lot of my red flags,” D’Antonio said.

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Her scammer claimed to be a single father living in Australia with a 5 year old son. Once a relationship was formed, she said he used the “son” as a hook to manipulate her into giving him so much money that she almost got thrown out.

“His story was that he was traveling abroad and the card he was using for his spending stopped working,” D’Anonio said. “I couldn’t leave the kid in a bad situation so I had sent money to take him home. I took out loans. I took money out of my 401,000.”

New hit documentary Tinder Swindler has shone a spotlight on love scams that don’t always happen exclusively online.

The documentary tells the stories of three women who claim to be victims of an international scammer. The women say they met Shimon Hayut, aka Simon Leviev, on Tinder. After whirlwind romances that included offbeat travel and gifts, he eventually convinced her to take out loans, give him access to their credit cards, and send him hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. Filmmakers claim he cheated people around the world, mostly women, out of an estimated $10 million.

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Hayut, who called himself the “Prince of Diamonds,” reportedly claimed to be the son of a wealthy businessman. The women say he used manipulated photos and fake websites and created an online persona depicting a millionaire lifestyle to convince them he is who he says he is.

He also threw around a lot of cash. The women say they were flown around on private jets, picked up in luxury cars and treated to nights out at exclusive clubs and restaurants, all without realizing until it was too late who actually funded the charade.

Despite multiple arrests and jail terms, the filmmakers say Hayut is no longer behind bars and was still active on dating apps until last Friday, when Tinder announced they had suspended him.

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There are ways to protect yourself from romance scams, even if you’re dealing with experts. Experts give the following tips:

  • Look for the person’s name and the contact information they give you. The lack of any online presence may be an indication of a false name.
  • Do a reverse image search on photos on their profile or on images they send you. The search can show if the person is using someone else’s photos or has multiple social media profiles under different names. Note that many free search sites, like Google’s image search, often don’t include social media sites like Facebook or Instagram in their results. This can make it harder to identify more sophisticated scammers. Payment sites like charge a small fee for a reverse image search, which they say uses “metadata and proprietary technology” to scan social media and networks across the web.
  • Ask to video chat with the person you met. If they’re acting like they’ve never heard of Skype, Facebook video, or FaceTime, or can never video chat for some reason, they’re probably starting.
  • Never send money, credit card or banking information to anyone with whom you have only communicated online or over the phone.
  • Be careful what you post and publish online. Scammers often target widows, divorcees, and those who appear to have had a rough time with love.
  • Beware of requests for adult photos or financial information, which could later be used to blackmail you.

Other red flags to look out for:

  • Scammers often claim to live abroad or work in an industry that takes them abroad, which makes meeting in person conveniently difficult. The FBI says scammers often claim to have careers in the military, construction, or oil industries.
  • Be wary of anyone who always seems to have an excuse for not being able to meet in person. If a few months have passed and you still haven’t met in person, you have every reason to be suspicious.
  • If you suspect that you or a loved one has been the victim of a romance or online scammer, report it to the FBI’s Cyber ​​Crime Complaints Bureau, IC3. FBI officials advise cutting off any contact immediately.

To file an IC3 complaint, click here.


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