CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Romance scams are still some of the most expensive forms of online fraud costing victims more than $200 million in 2019.
“The majority of these scammers don’t feel any remorse because it’s just programmed to them that this is a job,” SocialCatfish.com CEO David McClellan said. “This is a way to make a living for themselves.”
McClellan and Social Catfish spoke to an actual romance scammer from Nigeria in 2019. The scammer shared specific details about the scam and even sent a 20-page playbook full of ways to lure in victims, or "clients as the scammer calls them.
“About one out of every 10 people will give them some kind of money, whether it’s a $25 gift card or $60,000,” McClellan said.
It starts by creating a fake profile to lure in lonely victims. The scammers target online dating sites and popular social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
“When I create a profile I look for someone who’s attractive and I’ll be using them for my profile,” the scam artist told McClellan in a phone call.
The scammer looks for pictures liked by many people and will send messages to people who liked the picture. The scammers cast a wide net as they try to find potential victims.
“Sometimes you get to send like a thousand messages and get a hundred replies,” the scammer said.
The scammer will take time to cultivate an online relationship, make the victim feel loved, and then take advantage of a lonely person who thinks the relationship is real.
“When you’re deeply in love you’re like ‘I’m deployed and I need some money right now,’” the scammer said. “' I’m deployed to Africa and I need some money and when I’m back I’m going to pay you back,' and they send you money.”
In the age of online dating, establishing relationships without a face-to-face meeting is common. If an online partner starts asking for money before you’ve ever met for coffee or a meal it’s probably time to move on. The new love of your life is trying to scam you.
The online romance scam continues to drain bank accounts at an alarming rate. New data from the Federal Trade Commission shows the number of romance scam reports has nearly tripled since 2015 to more than $25,000 last year. Financial losses are six times higher in the same time span. Victims reported losses of $33 million in 2015 to more than $200 million dollars in 2019.
If you have a scam story to share, email Kyle Jordan at Scams@live5news.com.