WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The people hiding behind stolen social media photos of the man known as “Alex the Officer“ are targeting his real-life girlfriend after the couple went public on News 6 to warn women about the elaborate global romance rip-offs.
Nicole Hayden, of Palm Beach County, Florida told News 6 the imposters have set up profiles with her photograph on an app called Telegram, which is described as a “cross-platform messaging service.”
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Hayden said the imposters posted a message that the couple had split weeks ago so they could continue to use her boyfriend’s photos.
“I’m like enemy number one because women are finding out faster (about the imposters) before they lose their money,” Hayden told News 6.
Hayden and her boyfriend, 27-year-old Alessandro Cinquini of Miami, shared their story with News 6 after learning hundreds of women around the world were being targeted by organizations using Cinquini’s social media photos to promise love and then steal money from the unsuspecting women.
Bindi Gosai, 31, spoke to News 6 from her home in Gujarat, India after she lost 250,000 Rupees, the equivalent of $3,500 in U.S. currency, to a man claiming to be “Alex the Officer.”
“I trusted him, I really trusted him,” Gosai said. ”My mind was telling me that something was wrong, how can someone love you like this?”
Women from Poland to the United States have told similar tales of romantic lies that cost them thousands of dollars.
In the latest cases tracked by News 6, the conmen are using video clips of expensive gifts, including a sparkling diamond engagement ring, to lure the women into a financial trap.
All the women have to do is pay for the shipping of the elaborate gifts that include designer shoes, bags, jewelry and cash.
The same video clips have been used hundreds of times.
Hayden said since the couple exposed the deception, imposters have started targeting her cell phone and credit cards.
“All of a sudden my phone had no service,” she recalled. “So immediately I called AT&T and it said the number had been transferred to T-Mobile.”
An AT&T customer service representative told her the hackers were able to disconnect the account because they had her Social Security number.
On Sunday, Hayden emailed News 6 to report a mystery credit card purchase that had been issued for someone in California.
Her bank showed the purchase for $21. 73 was for Netflix.com.
“Coincidentally this was the credit card that I used to pay my AT&T bill,” Hayden said in the email.
The phone number associated with the purchase was an 866 toll-free number.
The FCC reports toll-free calls charge the party being called “rather than the person placing the call.”
“I must have been quick enough where they weren’t able to transfer any money,” Hayden said. “I was sure all of my money was going to be gone.”
News 6 is working with law enforcement and California-based Youmail Inc. to trace the source of the texts and emails.
If you think you are a victim of a romance scheme, email News 6 investigator Mike Holfeld at email@example.com