ORLANDO, Fla. – A man whose face was the center of a catfishing scheme and his girlfriend took the helm of a new social media lifeline for victims of romance imposters around the world.
Alessandro Cinquini, aka Alex the Officer, and his girlfriend Nicole Hayden created ”Digital Love Awareness,” a platform set up last year on Instagram and Facebook to provide a chatroom for victims to be able share their experiences “without shame.”
“If there’s one thing that being catfished taught me is that everybody wants to be loved,” Hayden told News 6. ”I think as a society, we are very lonely.”
Cinquini said the social media approach is intended to reach and educate men and women so they do not fall victim to the long distance lies.
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“The aim is to help people but at the same time compensate the (financial) loss,” Cinquini said. “The aim is educating and preventing women from falling in love with people who do not exist.”
The cost of love on the internet can be calculated by financial losses, estimated to be in the millions.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, 70,000 people reported losing a record $1.3 billion to romance scams in 2022.
“They know exactly what to say in order to make you feel loved and feel like you’re important to them,” Hayden said. “They tell you what you want to hear.”
Ironically, an imposter used Cinquini’s photograph to meet and eventually ask Hayden for money. She told News 6 she knew something was not right.
The money was supposed to be used to pay for a flight to Florida so he could meet her, but Hayden cut off the relationship when the imposter started threatening her family.
She eventually met the real Cinquini online and then in person a few months later. Cinquni’s good looks make him a perfect front for romance scammers.
The former cruise ship officer has received messages from women in the United States, Poland and India, all convinced he has been talking to them.
Hayden has set up a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to collect donations for men and women who have lost money to romance imposters.
In an email to News 6 Monday, Hayden confirmed the Facebook account is open with a Zeffy platform “pinned on the page.”
“They can donate using credit card, debit card, Apple or Google Pay or if they want to send a check, they can send it to the business address,” she said.
Hayden said everything can be done through Facebook and suggested all the women and men scammed follow the social media pages.
“After we have enough donations and inquiry from victims, we will post how to receive money back that they lost,” Hayden said. “There’s going to be several stipulations to be a candidate for return, which I have thought about to prevent a scammer from getting a donation.”
Both the Facebook and Instagram pages are called “Digital Love Awareness” and are open now.
If you want to share your story or need help with another unemployment or financial issue email email@example.com or text the words “Make Ends Meet” to 407-676-7428.
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