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According to Mayes, they’ve handled more than 14,000 such cases in the past three years. Go deactivate all your social media accounts,” he says.
In Mays’ experience, romance scammers typically target 30 to 40 people a day, and will eventually move on to easier prey if they encounter resistance.
Five years ago, he and a small team of international volunteers, including Firefly, created Scam Survivors, a hotline and information resource center for victims of online scams — mostly, as it turns out, romance scams. “With the romance scam, it could be someone who's been married for a number of years.
One day, scrolling through an online forum, she met Wayne Mays (not his real name) from the UK.
Mays is a romance scam-baiter, which means he hangs out on dating sites, posing as a naive love-seeker, with the goal of unmasking — and exhausting — confidence men and women.
But on the internet, she’s still looking for love in all the wrong places — this time, with a mission.
In August, a British man was sent to jail after defrauding two women of over £300,000 ($455,300) through online dating sites.
Her new boyfriend had a complicated backstory: He was an American soldier serving in Iraq, and he had a son living in Ghana.
But she had revealed to her new online beau how much she wanted children, and soon his 14-year-old son was emailing her.It’s not a good feeling to have been taken advantage of, and a scheme that’s so obvious in hindsight is even harder to admit to. If you date online, take precautions to protect yourself.Here are six things to keep in mind to help you spot and avoid scammers on online dating sites.But soon after, she learned that the son had had an accident at school and needed help paying hospital bills — urgently.“Of course I was sending money again to Western Union,” Firefly says.She decided to do a little research online and discovered that, yes, cholera is a problem in Ghana, and yes, treating it can be expensive — except that Ghana actually has a free cholera treatment program.“In that moment, something was not sounding right to me,” Firefly says. But she also realized something else: There were probably a lot of people, just like her, being victimized on dating sites, and Firefly was determined to do something about it.According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, online romance scams account for higher financial losses than any other internet-based crime.It’s not uncommon for victims to lose tens of thousands of dollars.(I know; red flag.) “He even called me, calling me ‘Mom’ a few times,” she says.Then, after about a week of heavy correspondence, Firefly’s boyfriend announced his son’s birthday was coming up, and suggested she send him a gift. It was pretty gratifying, she says; the son was ecstatic.