Special Report: Catfishing

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Updated: 5/09/2013 11:29 pm
ALBANY, N.Y. – All day "Bob Jones" gets emails and text messages from his girlfriend Rose, the two have been dating online since July, but have never met.

”She said she was from Newark, NJ and seemed to be smitten right away,” Jones said.

Bob recently got out of a long term relationship; which is why he says he, like many American’s, decided to give internet dating a try.

“We spend a lot of time talking; I call her my faux girlfriend, because we haven't met,” Jones said.

He says he's also sent her a large amount of money. NEWS CENTER’S Christine O’Donnell asked him “How much?”

“Close to $4,000 in smaller increments,” Jones said.

Bob is considered a victim of romance scamming an illegal form of Catfishing. Special Agent of the FBI’s Cyber Squad Eric Luric says Americans lost $50 million dollars to "romance scam artists" in 2012.

“Kate Smith” is a former Catfish.

“I think of it as taking advantage of someone,” Smith said.

What she used to do is completely legal.

“I would start talking to someone online and would kind of, obviously, not give my name, assume a new name and kinds of things I liked to do,” Smith said.

“Why did you do it?” NEWS CENTER’S Christine O’Donnell asked.

“I guess to increase myself worth, I didn't really feel that good about myself,” Smith said.

Special Agent Luric tells us the type of Catfishing Kate is talking about is the most common type in the U.S., and though frowned upon the FBI doesn't get involved unless a catfish turns into a romance scammer.

NEW CENTER did some investigating and found “Rose’s” Facebook page. We messaged her and tried calling her on a number she’d given to Bob. Someone answered, denied knowing Bob, but started asking NEWS CENTER to send them money.

The Resident Legal Attaché at the US Embassy in Nigeria says Rose is most likely a male fraudster working to steal thousands of dollars from American’s who think they're dating her.

“It does complicate the investigation because it's not as easy obviously to deal with someone overseas as it is someone in the United States” Luric said.

Bob's says he's submitted a complaint to the FBI about rose and though he realizes he's being scammed; he says he still finds it hard to let go, even as rose sends him a text asking for money during our interview.

“She's wondering where I am,” Bob said checking his found. “It's confounding because some of it seems truthful, can someone lie all the time,” Bob said.

Special Agent Luric says catching and prosecuting these “scammers” is not their top priority, their focus is on counterterrorism, so the public is pretty much on their own.

Here are some warning signs you’re speaking to a romance scammer:
  • Very early on in the relationship they started calling you by a pet name or such as 'darling'
  • They prefer to contact you privately through instant messaging and text messages rather than through the dating website or chat room where you met
  • They don't give answers or are vague about where they live and work
  • They’ve mentioned that they need money

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