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It felt too good to be true. The user, whose profile name was KellyCute , started sending Billy suggestive messages within minutes. But the experience quickly took a turn: Afterwards, the woman told him she had saved pictures of their brief cyber-sex session and was going to send them to everyone he knew, messages reviewed by MarketWatch confirmed. Tens of thousands of Americans fall victim to online romance-related scams each year, according to the Federal Trade Commission. In , more than 21, romance scams were reported to the FTC, up from 8, in Romance-related attacks can range from scammers targeting victims they meet on dating apps for money — often claiming they will come to visit or inventing emergencies like a car breaking down or medical costs — to blackmailing attempts like the one Billy experienced.
Fraud officers are investigating 30 cases where people looking for partners have been scammed, often pawning jewellery and taking out loans as a result of the elaborate hoaxes. In a typical scam, the fraudster identifies potential victims through a dating site. He then tailors his personality to suit what the victim is looking for, for example a man in the army, and then finds a picture of someone in the military from the internet, which he will use in his profile. Compliments are usually offered and questions asked of the woman so that the fraudster can ascertain how much money the woman has and whether the scam is worth pursuing. In the vast majority of cases it is women who are the victims, although there has the been the occasional male.
Verification is a much-desired feature on many social media services today. Public figures and other celebrities on Facebook and Instagram are offered a blue checkmark alongside their name so you know which accounts are legitimate. The scammers earn a commission on the sign-ups, which is the reason the scam exists in the first place.