MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. – FBI officials are investigating scammers who use online dating to make victims believe they’ve fallen for them before using them to get money or plane tickets.
Some of the scammers are bold enough to simply ask people for cash, officials said.
“It is impossible to meet people in real life anymore,” Sarah Pruner said.
Pruner, 40, of Madison Heights, is an expert in online dating and has been using dating apps for more than a decade.
“I have just been trying to stick it out to meet somebody,” Pruner said. “I think that in this day and age it has become harder and harder to meet someone who wants to stay committed.”
She said she also knows about the pitfalls that come along with trying to find love online.
“It’s pretty disheartening," Pruner said. “It is full of a lot of people who are just shuffling through people, waiting for that one thing to stick because they don’t really want to stick around. So then they will jump to the next person.”
Pruner said she’s been able to spot a potential scammer online before it’s too late.
“As far as the fraud thing -- yeah, I am definitely hip to it,” Pruner said. “They want you to feel bad for them. Almost all of them are in the military, and they are off base. That is when they will maybe ask you for money, when, ‘I’d really like to come visit you and I have some leave but I don’t really have any money to get there.’ A lot of their story often is, ‘Oh, my parents are really sick and I had to fly to visit them, and now I can’t get home.’”
Reuben Coleman handles these types of cases for the FBI.
“Romantic fraud is when you have perpetrators that find a victim and, whether it be through the internet, whether it be through social media, they gain that person’s love, trust, and eventually, try to take money from them through a number of different schemes,” Coleman said. “It is extremely prevalent. Last year alone I think we had roughly 18,500 victims (with) a loss of over $363 million -- that is across the country.”
Coleman said scammers make people believe they’re falling for them, and just when they think they’re hooked, they’ll ask for anything from a plane ticket to bank account information, or even just cash.
How to report these scams
The FBI offers this portal for victims to file a report directly with them: