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Romance scam almost drove woman to take her own life | #datingscams | #lovescams | #datingscams | #love | #relationships | #scams | #pof | #match.com | #dating


Valentine’s Day may be the time for romance. But this time of year is also a hot time for romance scams.

Action 9 took a look into the level of sophistication behind these schemes and how they almost drove a Central Florida woman to take her own life.

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Looking for love online is not unusual these days.

Rebecca D’Antonio met a man named Matthew on a popular dating site in 2016.

“He was very good looking,” she said.

For her, it was a time of jubilation.

D’Antonio told Action 9 Consumer Investigator Jeff Deal, “He made me feel valued. He made me feel heard; he made me, like, feel special.”

Read: How to avoid romance scams this Valentine’s Day

Little did she know then “Matthew” was not a real person, but was a scammer or perhaps even a team of scammers in Nigeria. The photo of him was stolen from someone else. The scammers were using a playbook, with specific instructions and key phrases designed to woo American women and make them fall in love.

Tammy Mizer with the FBI said the scammers are relentless, they keep journals and log books on potential victims and often adapt their techniques.

She added, “Romance scams are very sophisticated and just continue to grow in sophistication as techniques evolve.”

For Rebecca D’Antonio, it seemed to mirror a real relationship. There was a “get-to-know-you” phase and Matthew’s life stories were believable.

Read: Criminals use artificial intelligence, imitate celebrities to trick people into handing over money

In her case, Matthew was presented as a single father with a young son. The scammers played off D’Antonio’s emotions and eventually asked her for just a small amount of money after the fictional father and son supposedly got stranded on a trip with a credit card that wasn’t working.

D’Antonio said, “He’s the victim. He’s the victim and I need to help them, you know? And but, you know, he’ll fix everything when he gets home.”

Over the course of a year, the manipulation continued. D’Antonio gave the scammers around $100,000. Her finances and the relationship were spiraling out of control to the point she was stockpiling sleeping pills.

She said, “There was no alternative left for me.” Jeff Deal asked, “You were going to take your own life? D’Antonio confirmed, “I was going to take my own life.”

Read: Valentine’s Day 2024: Restaurant deals and freebies to shower on you sweetie

Fortunately a friend intervened. D’Antonio credits that friend for saving her life.

D’Antonio filed for bankruptcy and connected with a volunteer group called ScamHaters United that helps victims like her. The group helped her better understand the manipulation and what she went through. She learned about the organized gangs that operate almost like corporations in Nigeria.

“They refer to it as the HK, the Hustle Kingdom,” she said.

It was only then she began to learn about the level of sophistication of romance scams and the trail of destruction they leave behind. It impacts not just victims like her, but also friends and families of scam victims as well as the identity theft victims and their loved ones. For the identity theft victims the impact can often be felt even longer as their photos and personal information are used in these scams over and over again.

D’Antonio who now helps other victims through ScamHaters United said, “A scam victim has a definitive beginning and end to their experience. Identity theft victims, they’re on a merry-go-round they can’t get off.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 70,000 Americans lost a record $1.3 Billion to romance scams in 2022. And that’s likely just a fraction of the real cost since many people remain silent and don’t want to report they were a victim of this kind of crime.

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