Royal Palm Beach woman seeking companion through online dating finds fraud, victim of 'catfishing'

Police say there finding more online scams

ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. -- - More and more adults are turning to the internet when it comes to looking for love. Reuters recently took a survey and found 40 million Americans have tried web dating.

But hidden on the other side of the web connection, might not be the person the computer user thinks they actually talking to online.
    
Police say "catfishing," when a person poses as someone else, is rising and who people think they are falling in love with is really after what is in your wallet.

Royal Palm Beach resident Rosie Wilk-Davis recently turned to the internet to try to find a companion. Her husband Alvin Davis died a year and half ago and has since become lonely.

Under advice from her children, she turned to online dating site Christian Mingle.

"They were always saying go to church. But I'm like, (it's the) same old, same old," said Wilk-Davis.

Thinking it was safe, Wilk-Davis created a profile and in no time received her first message.
The person went by the name of Richard Samaras. He told Wilk-Davis he just lost his wife and lived down the street.

"I thought maybe because I'm a widow, you kind of know what to talk about and how you feel and stuff like that. But I'm not that lonely," said Wilk-Davis.

Days after building what she thought was a relationship, her love interest ask her to buy him an iPhone because he was overseas on a business trip and had no access.

Wilk-Davis thought it was weird and when her friend did a little digging, they discovered he was masking his I-P address and was really someone in Ghana.

"To me, it's the most common crime right now and it's the most difficult to track down," said Sgt. David LeFont of the West Palm Beach Police computer forensic unit.

LeFont said online fraud is growing and his office field more than 600 related online cases in 2012.

His advice is to never send money because the police have little recourse given the alleged scammer could live anywhere.

"You can't push anything," said Wilk-Davis. "Now, I just let it go. I don't even want to go on the site."

Rosie said she learned her lesson and she will be sticking to meeting people in person.

Christian Mingle emailed this statement in regards to the situation:

"The safety and security of our members is our top priority. We have extensive safeguards in place to protect our members, identify questionable profiles and eliminate attempted fraudulent activity in our communities. In addition to having several proprietary, automated tools, we have experts manually review all profile content and photos to ensure the highest possible level of safety and privacy for our communities. When our members join our sites, they are also required to pledge not to send money to anyone they meet online. Online dating safety tips such as "Never send money to anyone you meet online," among many others, are easily accessible on all of our sites as well," wrote Arielle Schechtman, director of public and community relations.

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