DENVER (KDVR) — With Valentine’s Day comes one of the busiest times of the year for scammers looking to target those who are lonely and seeking meaningful relationships.
The FBI reports Colorado is eighth in the nation when it comes to money lost to romance scams.
While many are finding love through apps, social media and dating services, others are finding disappointment and financial ruin.
“I was tired of being alone and I needed somebody,” said one Denver scam victim.
In Colorado alone, romance scam victims have lost more than $24 million.
Many scams are operated out of Nigeria. The Problem Solvers spoke with one former scammer from Nigeria, via Zoom, about how he has targeted women around the world. He said he is sharing the methods to warn others after contemplating how he would feel if his family members became victims.
“I would never want that to happen to my mom,” he said.
The man described how scammers put in several hours a day in order to score money and personal information.
“Let me tell you this, I used to do a scam [where] I used to talk to a woman. I would call her from [midnight] until 5 a.m. in the morning,” he said.
The man told the Problem Solvers, social media is a scammer’s playground because it only takes minutes to set up a phony profile.
“They use good and nice pictures so people can fall for them,” he said.
The scammers almost always present themselves as very wealthy, some impersonate celebrities.
The former scammer told FOX31, it is extremely important to consider whether what the person is saying makes sense.
“They are good-looking, they have good money, but still they are asking for money,” he said.
Anyone who refuses to have a visual conversation should be blocked.
“I’m telling you, I’m this person. You have every right to talk on a video call,” the man said.
A reverse image search can help to verify the validity of profile pictures.
The scam consultant FOX31 spoke with was made available through Social Catfish, a company dedicated to preventing online scams through reverse search technology.
While many high-end dating services are not running scams, they can leave some customers feeling that they didn’t get their money’s worth.
Mary told FOX31 she spent $8,000 for the perfect match but was shocked at the lack of prospects that were not compatible.
“In a sense, it is shallow because you’re just looking at a picture. You have to be attracted to that person and most of the people at the agency, they looked like my grandfather and I just couldn’t get excited about that,” she said.
Mary suspects her contract had fine print loopholes that prevented her from receiving a refund.
“If they provide members, then they say they’re meeting their contract,” Mary said.
Colorado’s Attorney General Phil Weiser warns that it’s important to check reviews before signing on the dotted line.
“Before signing up with a service that claims they’re going to get you the love of your life, do your homework, read the contract carefully, you might see that the fine print means you’re not getting what you think you’re getting,” Weiser said.
The AG warns that whether you are using dating apps, are approached on social media or sign a contract with a dating service, always consider that scammers are crafting new ways to trick you into handing over your money or personal information.
“They are very clever in getting you to give up money,” Weiser said.
Always report scams to the Attorney General’s office.