LOS ANGELES – Online dating works for some, but for others, it can be a heartbreaking and disappointing experience.
For Monique Taylor, things turned out well.
“Everyone says go on the app and find your guy. It worked for me and we got married last year,” Taylor said.
It is the happy ending many strive for but is not always the case. Women like June Miller have been scammed while online dating.
“There were a couple of times when I said…are you scamming me? And he would say…’baby how can you think that, you know I love you,’ ” Miller said.
Eventually, she learned the man she had connected with was using a fake profile. However, by then it was too late and she had been swindled out by nearly half a million dollars.
The FBI warns what happened to Miller is common and that romance scams are on the rise.
“The scammers will get to know you through your online profile, your likes, your dislikes…they really do their research,” FBI Special Agent Chad Hunt said.
Romance scammers do their research and target women and men who are vulnerable, often using photos of attractive people.
These criminals use stolen photographs to scam people searching for love worldwide. It happened to Greg Brown who says his picture has been used in Nigeria, Canada, Mexico and most recently, Columbus, Georgia.
Imposters have even used FOX 11 reporter Bill Melugin’s photographs to contact women online in Europe.
“I found out about it because I got some random message out of the blue one day from some girl in England on Instagram telling me ‘hey, some guy stole your photos and is using them to Catfish people on Tinder,’ ” Melugin said.
The FBI says online dating scams are lucrative and that they received nearly 19,500 complaints last year with reported losses of more than $475 million.
If you’re dating online, experts say:
• Research your love interest’s photos and profile information.
• Ask a lot of questions.
• FaceTime them to make sure they are who they say they are.
• Never give away any private information.
• Beware if they make excuses to meet you in person.
“Be cautious if it’s too good to be true and go into a relationship cautiously. Hopefully you find someone, but do so cautiously,” Special Agent Hunt said.