KIYC: How to avoid romance scams - from a man who used to do it for a living
Romance scams cost victims over a billion dollars a year. But you don't have to be one of them.
News 12's Walt Kane has an exclusive look at romance scams, and how to avoid them, from a man who used to do it for a living.
"The fastest time it took me to get money from a woman is four days," says Chris.
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The man, who asked News 12 to call him Chris, is a scammer from Nigeria, who says he's made over $30,000 from victims. His specialty - romance scams or catfishing.
"I target older women, you know, maybe 50s, 40s, 60s, 70s. Most of them are divorced. Their kids are grown up, and they've left home, so they just live alone and they need someone to be with," he says.
Chris says he created several fake social media profiles, usually claiming to be in the military.
"There is this military guy. I take down his pictures to my phone, and I use his pictures to create a fake profile," Chris says.
But when it came to luring in victims, Chris says his favorite approach was to use online gaming apps, like chess or Scrabble.
"If you play some of those games, you have the opportunity to text the person you're talking to. So it just makes it easy for some people to create a fake profile for that game," he says.
The Kane In Your Corner producer played a few games of online Scrabble.
It didn't take long for the romance scammers to show up. One, like Chris, claimed to be an Air Force engineer. Another said he was a widower, raising a son on his own. He wasted no time asking our producer for her marital status, then started calling her "my beautiful."
Chris says when he was scamming, he'd ask for money within three or four days.
"I'll tell them I'm booking a flight, I'm coming out there. They should pay for the hotel. I'll pay for the flight. They should send me the money for the hotel. After I tell them, I'm gonna come, I'll tell them, 'My boss called me and I've been deployed, so I'll not be able to come anymore.'"
Chris gave the Kane In Your Corner a training manual, which he says Nigerian scam rings use to train new members. It offers advice on how to research potential victims, and how to approach them.
So, how can you protect yourself from romance scams? Here's what the Secret Service advises:
Be careful what you post online; scammers could use that information to target you;
If someone tries to start up an online friendship, do an image search on their photo;
Be suspicious of anyone who says they want to meet but then keeps making excuses;
And never send money to someone you've only met online.
Chris, the former scammer, says he now works for Social Catfish, a company dedicated to preventing online scams through reverse search technology.
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