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Sweetheart scammers: How to investigate your online match

3 things you can do right now to protect yourself
Posted: 6:46 AM, Feb 14, 2018
Updated: 2018-02-27 23:14:37Z
Tonight at 5: Investigating your online match

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Swipe left, swipe right, match, message, ping and poke - from millennials to baby boomers love is on the virtual line. All you need to do is plug-in.

“It’s the new age,” Reggie Montgomery, a private investigator in Palm Beach Gardens said with a laugh. “Everybody does it.”

According to Match.com, the Internet is the number one place to meet singles. In a recently release survey, more singles went on their ‘last first date’ in 2017 after meeting their match online more than any other place. 

RELATED - Aimed at the heart: The business of online romance scams

But with the Price Charmings, come the Casanovas. “They want you to fall in love, and once you’re in love, they own you,” Montgomery told Contact 5 Investigator Merris Badcock. 

Montgomery is no stranger to the obstacles of online dating. “It is not a bad way to meet people. I met my wife that way. [My wife’s] daughter met her husband that way,” he said. 

Plus, Montgomery is often asked to track down scammers. “If they suspect an online romance scam, I’m not going to be able to help them, because [the scammer is] going to check out,” said Montgomery, noting that oftentimes online romancer scammer will go so far as to steal the identity of the person they are pretending to be. 

In 2016, more than 21,000 Floridians lost $88 million in scams, according to the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3) .

“They train people in how to communicate. They train people on how to sell themselves, how to start a relationship, how to string people along and how to get the most money out of victim,” said Supervisory Special Agent Jason Manar with the FBI’s field office in Miami. 

See the percentage of singles who 'friend' before the first date on the next page.

While those number might seem high, other officials estimate 15 percent of victims ever report their scam to law enforcement.

“Because of embarrassment, because they do not want to ever admit that this is in fact act of fraud,” Manar said, weighing in on what holds people back from telling authorities they have been scammed.

“We actually have one victim that we know of that still maintains that there is a real relationship here. Even after of us getting involved in the case, she has made wire transfers [to the person she believes is scamming her].”

Experts say there are old-fashioned ways you can protect yourself from the new-age scruples of swiping right. It all starts with meeting your match in public, as soon as possible. 

“Look into somebody's eyes,” said Montgomery. “It may be for a love connection, but when their eyes are going [crazy], you know it's time to hit it!" 

Montgomery also suggests: running your match’s name, phone number and email through Google, run their profile picture through Google image search, and check their name in online court records. 

“You would certainly like to know if the guy you just had coffee with and you thought was pretty cute was involved in a stalking case,” said Montgomery.

According to the Match survey, “less than one-fifth of singles think it is ok to friend someone on Facebook (19%), follow them on Instagram (17%), add them on Snapchat (19%), or like a photo or post (20%) before the first date.”

But both the FBI and Montgomery say you should do everything you can to background you match before falling in love.

 

Singles who friend before the first date by Merris