ORLANDO, Fla. – 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 projected to increase further when the 2021 government numbers are released since more people have looked for love online since COVID-19 began.
News 6 interviewed two recent victims of the online deceptions: Alec Robinson, a Tampa clothing designer who has been fighting to get his photos pulled from various dating and social media sites, and Rebecca D’Antonio, an Orlando woman who lost her life savings to an international imposter.
Robinson, a retired marine, told News 6 a friend spotted his photograph on a dating site eight years ago.
In that profile, a woman complained how he had taken money from her and just disappeared.
Robinson said his photographs are on hundreds of social media sites and many times, relatives of the women that think they are talking to Robinson contact him to confirm the truth: It is not him.
“A lot of times, (impostors) just take my images and pretend to be me,” Robinson said. “They’ll take pictures of me with my nieces and nephews and will say, ‘Hey, these are my children. I’m a single dad looking for love.’”
The owner of the Iron and Ink clothing line told News 6 as “fast as he takes down a profile, three more will pop up.”
“So now it’s Instagram, it’s Twitter, it’s Facebook, it’s every dating site,” he said. “Like dating sites I’ve never even heard of.”
Last week he showed News 6 roughly 50 profiles on the social media site TikTok, all variations of his life created by imposters many he believes are operating out of the country.
“They’re usually targeting single, divorced or never married women between the ages of 45 to 60,” Robinson said. ”I’m not on dating sites. (I’ve got) one singular TikTok account, one Instagram, one Facebook account, that’s it.”
Rebecca D’Antonio told News 6 she understands the social media photo game.
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 screens your personality to create a match.
In her case, that match cost her everything—a financial loss of $100,000 handed over to a man she thought would be coming to Orlando to marry her.
She said she was so devastated she nearly took her own life and continues share her story so more people do not fall in love with a lie.
“Survivors of something I’ve been through know 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 want to share a story involving an online romance scam, please send an email to Mike Holfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on internet romance scams, click here.