Don't Be a Victim: A weeklong series — NBC10 is giving you tips on how to not be the victim of fraudsters every day, starting Monday, April 29 through Friday, May 3. Follow along on TV and online and test your knowledge with our quiz on Friday.
Simona Blanda was looking online for Mr. Right, but instead she wound up with both a broken heart and a broken bank account.
Blanda was a victim of a so-called romance scam, which last year duped victims out of $143 million nationwide, according to the Federal Trade Commission. In Blanda's case, she ended up $25,000 in debt.
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Blanda thought she found her perfect match on a dating website that connects people to members of the Military. "I thought, 'Well, Military. They're secure. They can offer you security. They're, you know, down to earth guys,'" Blanda said.
Soon, the supposed overseas soldier's gifts and words wooed her, and their conversations moved from the dating site to messaging apps. That's when he started asking for money for all types of things, including funds to get back into the U.S.
Blanda, head over heels, ended up in the financial hole before realizing she was getting scammed.
Rob D'Ovidio, a cyber crime professor at Drexel University, said there are a few ways you can keep yourself from falling for a romance scam:
- Never send money to someone.
- Scrutinize your match's profile.
- Be leery if your match doesn't want to meet you in the physical world.
- Use reverse image search tools to check if the picture of the person you're communicating with is being used under different names. Google's reverse image search function could help.