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“My friends advised me to go online and try to find someone to share my life with,” she says via Skype.Firefly spent a lot of time on her profile, thinking she needed to be entirely honest and open if she hoped to really connect with someone.Within 10 minutes of posting, she had a handful of virtual suitors — and one stood out.He suggested they ditch the dating site and switch to email.Whatever you do, he adds, don’t ever pay them — that will only make a scammer more aggressive.As for Firefly, she now refuses to date anyone she doesn’t meet the old-fashioned way, face to face.One day, scrolling through an online forum, she met Wayne Mays (not his real name) from the UK.Mays is a romance scam-baiter, which means he hangs out on dating sites, posing as a naive love-seeker, with the goal of unmasking — and exhausting — confidence men and women.
“The perpetrators will reach out to a lot of people on various networking sites to find somebody who may be a good target.Five years ago, an Austrian woman decided to give online dating a try.(She asked that I only use her internet handle, Firefly, for reasons that will soon become clear.) It had been about a year since Firefly got divorced. The woman, in her 50s and struggling in her marriage, was happy to find someone to chat with. He was very positive, and I felt like there was a real connection there.”That connection would end up costing the woman million and an untold amount of heartache after the man she fell in love with—whom she never met in person—took her for every cent she had.
Victims—predominantly older widowed or divorced women targeted by criminal groups usually from Nigeria—are, for the most part, computer literate and educated. And con artists know exactly how to exploit that vulnerability because potential victims freely post details about their lives and personalities on dating and social media sites.
According to Mayes, they’ve handled more than 14,000 such cases in the past three years. Go deactivate all your social media accounts,” he says.