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Online romance scams proliferate in Michigan, elsewhere

They’re called catfishers and their nefarious online activity is known as catfishing.

No, the above has nothing to do with wetting a line in your favorite stream or brook.

It does, however, have everything to do with gullible but well-meaning people being bilked out of their money.

And according to one recent study, the state of Michigan ranked 11th in the nation in the year 2019, in terms of numbers of victims of so-called romance scams.

“This is an emotional, complex crime,” Christine Beining, an FBI agent based in Tampa, Florida, told The Atlantic for a story on the issue. “If you don’t understand what goes into it–the manipulation, the brainwashing, the gaslighting–it’s easy to think, ‘That’s stupid, what were you thinking?'”

According to the study, Americans lost $201 million to romance scammers in 2019, up more than 40 percent from the previous year.

Remarkably, Nigerian romance scams appear to be the most prevalent. Here’s an informal list of ways to avoid becoming a victim:

≤ Never give money: Do not give anyone you meet online money, no matter the reason.

≤ Do not give personal information: Scammers can use basic information to commit identity fraud, get access to your banks and steal your money.

≤ Take things slow: If you like someone online, do not let them rush you. Nigerian romance scammers will be pushy about falling in love right away. If that is the case, know something is not right.

≤ Meet or video chat: Do not form a relationship with someone who will not video chat with you or meet you in person.

Sounds like common sense? It is, yet untold numbers of people are victimized by these scammers each year.

Be smart. Don’t let it happen to you.

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