JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The FBI said Florida ranks number two in the nation, after California, for having the largest amount of internet crime victims. The crime has gone up more than 6 percent in 2015.
And online dating or so-called “romance scams” are a big chunk of that fraud.
Victims all over Florida, many of them over 60 years old, are getting taken for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some are even losing their life savings, all because they thought the person on the other side of the screen was their one true love.
The FBI said that in 2015 alone, victims in Florida lost more than $13 million after 440 complaints of “romance scams” came pouring in.
Action News Jax law and safety expert and former FBI agent Dale Carson said it's not just happening on dating websites, but also on social media.
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“They tell you that they're in custody somewhere. They need your help and you're the most beautiful person or the most handsome person in the world, could you please help,” said Carson.
Charles Haffner once tried finding love online. He wasn’t surprised to hear about the rampant scams.
“I feel sorry for them, the people who are getting scammed, and the people who are scamming, shame on ya'll,” said Haffner.
Before asking for money outright, many if not all romantic correspondence are riddled with misspellings or improper English.
“They do that on purpose because if you don't catch that red flag, you're not very sophisticated, and the result is they know with certainty they can take advantage of you,” said Carson.
In nearly all cases, the money can’t be recovered because many of the scam artists are operating in another country, where the FBI doesn’t have jurisdiction.
If you suspect someone you know is the victim of a romance scam, email reporter Lorena Inclan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cox Media Group