ORLANDO, Florida – If you’re looking for love this holiday season, be careful if this search leads you online.
What would you like to know
- FBI: Almost the same number of internet complaints in the first 5 months of 2020 as in all of 2019
- Romance scams on the rise, supposedly linked to the pandemic
- Florida and Texas tied for second in U.S. casualties
- READ: 2019 FBI Internet Crime Report (.PDF)
The FBI sees a sharp increase in all cybercrimes, but especially romance scams. The agency believes this trend is linked to the pandemic.
“Scammers know that people are unable to do the kind of monitoring or verification that they typically would,” said FBI Special Agent for Surveillance Keith Givens. “For example, if someone wanted to rent an apartment, a COVID scammer might say ‘We’ would love for you to come and see the apartment, but we can’t ask you to go and see it because we have a circumstance COVID. ”
From buying a home to shopping, learning and dating, everything is now online. Add to that the growing financial problems associated with the pandemic like evictions and unemployment, and many scams may not seem so far-fetched.
“People don’t have the opportunity to meet in person. It’s not as easy to verify someone because the COVID circumstance has limited people in what they can do, “Givens said.” So they can find themselves in a situation where they let their guard down depending on the situation. of an identity that was essentially created online. “
We connected with Rebecca D’Antonio through the website, SocialCatfish.com.
Rebecca D’Antonio shared her scam story, and while it didn’t happen during the pandemic, she wanted to share it now to prevent anyone from the pain she suffered.
D’Antonio signed up for OkCupid thinking it might lead to some romance.
“I kind of walked in with an open heart, an open mind,” D’Antonio shared. “I was pretty detailed in my profile.”
One detail D’Antonio shared was that she couldn’t have children herself, but loved children. She says she didn’t want to waste time, which is why she shared so much detailed information.
Then “Matthew” reached out his hand. D’Antonio says they hit it off right away and had a lot of common interests. “Matthew” also had a 5 year old son. Long story short, after months of connecting, “Matthew” and his son went on an international trip. “Matthew” then called D’Antonio and shared that his credit card would not work abroad. This is a situation that D’Antonio said had happened to him before. After asking if anyone else could help financially, D’Antonio gave “Matthew” money. She says she didn’t want her 5 year old son stranded.
This is a problem that is happening even more because of the pandemic.
In the first five months of 2020, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaints Center received almost the same number of complaints as in 2019.
According to the FBI, in 2019, Florida residents lost nearly $ 294 million to scammers. These numbers are expected to increase even more this year.
“Naturally, you’re going to start looking the web for people to talk to and that’s when you fall prey,” said Craig Agranoff.
What advice does Agranoff have for anyone in the digital dating world?
“You should treat your online world as you would your offline world,” he said. “If you don’t give someone your home address before you know who they are, don’t do it online.”
For D’Antonio, it took her several years and filing for bankruptcy for her to rebuild her life. As for confidence? She says it’s something people now have to earn.
Another thing to watch out for is deep fakes, where someone masquerades as someone else or creates a fake character all together.
You can also watch our previous watchdog survey where we examined the “Deep Fakes” – video or audio clips created to make it look like people are saying or doing things that are not real.
Bottom Line: Experts say if your gut tells you something is wrong, it most likely is.