Online romance scams cost Americans $304 million in the COVID era

ORLANDO, Florida. – Americans lost a record $304 million to romance scammers in 2020, up from $201 million in 2019, according to a new report from SocialCatfish.com.

The numbers are expected to rise further when the 2021 government figures are released as more people search for love online since the onset of COVID-19.

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News 6 interviewed two recent victims of online deception: Alec Robinson, a Tampa clothing designer who fought to have his photos taken from various dating and social media sites, and Rebecca D’Antonio, a woman from Orlando who lost all his life savings to an international impostor.

Robinson, a retired sailor, told News 6 that a friend spotted his photo on a dating site eight years ago.

In this profile, a woman was complaining that he took money from her and just disappeared.

Robinson said his photographs appeared on hundreds of social media sites, and on several occasions, relatives of women who thought they were talking to Robinson contacted him to confirm the truth: it’s not him.

“A lot of times (imposters) just take my footage and pretend to be me,” Robinson said. “They’ll take pictures of me with my nephews and nieces and say, ‘Hey, these are my kids. I am a single father looking for love.

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The owner of the Iron and Ink clothing line told News 6 as soon as he deletes a profile, three more will appear.

“So now it’s Instagram, it’s Twitter, it’s Facebook, it’s all dating sites,” he said. “Like the dating sites I’ve never even heard of.”

Last week, he showed News 6 about 50 profiles on social media site TikTok, all variations of his life created by imposters many of whom he says operate out of the country.

“They typically target single, divorced or never-married women between the ages of 45 and 60,” Robinson said. “I’m not on dating sites. (I have) only one TikTok account, one Instagram, one Facebook account, that’s all.

Rebecca D’Antonio told News 6 that she understands the photo game on social media.

D’Antonio fell in love with the photograph of another man she knew as Mathew Sean.

She never spoke to him in person, only by text and phone.

D’Antonio met him on OKCupid, a free online dating site that filters your personality to create a match.

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In her case, this match cost her everything – a financial loss of $100,000 handed over to a man she thought would come to Orlando to marry her.

She said she was so devastated she almost killed herself and continues to share her story so more people won’t fall in love with a lie.

“Survivors of something I experienced know that the scam has a beginning and it has an end,” D’Antonio said. “But for people like Alec, when their photos are stolen, it’s a perpetual nightmare.”

If you would like to share a story involving an online romance scam, please email Mike Holfeld at [email protected]

For more information on internet romance scams, click here.

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