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Anything for love: Call Kurtis investigates the romance scam epidemic | #lovescams | #datingapps | #datingscams | #love | #relationships | #scams | #pof | #match.com | #dating

SACRAMENTO — Stories like what happened to Carina, who has a PhD, are unfolding across the country as part of an epidemic of fraud. The 46-year-old is a self-described workaholic who fell for a career-oriented guy on a dating app.

“This person became my confidant, my best friend. I was communicating with this person more than anyone else in my life at the time,” she told us.

What started as chats on the app transitioned at his request to texting through messaging app WhatsApp. The marathon messaging discussed their careers, their lives and plans for an eventual first date. Evan claimed to be in San Francisco working a job in finance After weeks of getting to know each other, Evan suggested a path for Carina to pay off her student loans, by investing in cryptocurrency. It required her borrowing from her 401(k).

“I even questioned borrow money to make money?” Carina remembers. “That seems weird. But he said, this is how wealthy people do it all the time. “

The supposed investment platform showed investment money was growing. Evan convinced her to invest even more. She borrowed from friends, family, and took out a high-interest personal loan realizing she was within months of paying off her student loans, instead of years. Evan claimed to pool his own money with hers to help maximize a return for both of them. But when Carina went to withdraw her earnings to pay back her student loans and the other loans she took out, she learned there was no investment. There was no Evan. There would be no first date. $150,000 was gone to scammers.

“I was so embarrassed, and I didn’t want to tell my friends and family what happened,” Carina said. “And I thought it would be easier to just go away instead of having to tell them what I did with their money.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission, 5144 people across the Sacramento region reported they fell victim to imposter scams in 2023. The FBI knows that number is higher, but many victims are too ashamed to report it or even tell their own families.

“It’s awful and predatory,” said Sacramento Supervisory Agent Jimmy Hassani.

He says romance scams are the most lucrative. The bad guys make more than $1 billion each year, and baby boomers are often the target. But now, so are other age groups.

“Kurtis, you may find this hard to believe, but I can make you fall in love with me,” he said. “It’s not hard, because all I have to do is do a little bit of research about you. Build a profile and I’ll get you hooked.”

The con artists are finding their victims on dating apps and social media. Using publicly posted information often from social media. The scammers are masters of manipulation.

“That has giving criminals kind of access or the ability to reach us in a way that leaves us captivated,” he said.

The con artists are patient. They will foster relationships for weeks or even months before bringing up money.

The victims are getting younger. 24-year-old Nicole Hutchinson told CBS News the man named “Hao” she met on a dating app claimed he was from the same town in China where she was adopted.

“We kind of bonded over that,” she said.

He tricked her in an investment scam and out of her inheritance from her late mom.

Now with artificial intelligence, you can’t even trust videos sent to you, according to Arun Rao with the Department of Justice.

“Scammers located in West Africa communicating with American victims in the United States,” Rao told CBS News. “It appeared to the victim in the United States that they were speaking to another American citizen.”

Some of the scammers were right here in Sacramento. Princewill Arinze Duru is now serving seven years in prison for his role in the scam ring tied to Nigeria. The U.S. Attorney’s Office calls him a money mule creating a fake business and opening bank accounts for the scam victims to send their money. According to the indictment, he’d get a cut of the scam money, usually 20%, for romance scam laundering.

“I think of them as terrorists,” Carina said.

She now knows the photos “Evan” sent her were stolen from someone’s Instagram account. She’s now moved back in with her mom to save money and pay off her debt.

“I clearly so badly wanted to believe. And the dream that he was selling me.”

Carina outlines what happens to her in detail in this podcast.


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