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Romance scam victims share stories as technology evolves to help track suspects

Social Catfish founder says the technology exists to help us detect scams and learn about who is behind the attacks
Romance scam victims share stories as technology evolves to help track suspects
Posted at 7:24 AM, Feb 23, 2023

Last week we shared a warning about romance scams and showed you how we’ve tracked the costly impact they’ve had on people across our state.This reporting is inspiring other scam victims to come forward as we learn why more work needs to be done to stop the people behind the crimes.

”You love somebody and that person and they love you and he seems so willing to connect with you and then all of a sudden it’s broken,” Shirley Lin told News5.

Lin says she met someone online and developed a long distance relationship.

”He told me a bunch of stories about how he was working on a boat. He was on one of those submarines and he wanted money,” said Lin.

After seeing our coverage on romance scams she felt compelled to speak with News5, sharing her story for the first time publicly.

”This person asking me for money, I knew he wanted to clear out my bank account,” she said.

Inspired by the testimonies of others on News5 who were targeted by romance scams, she hopes people will end relationships like hers before handing over any money.

“I think they are brave enough to come forward with their story so others can learn from it. Especially from mine, people can learn from it. Before you give any of that money just know it’s not going to come back,” said Lin.

News5 spoke with David McClellan the founder of Social Catfish, a private company dedicated to preventing online scams through reverse search technology. It is working to help scam victims and to increase accountability for the criminals behind these attacks.

He says there is technology out there right now that can detect scam attacks, while tracking exactly where they originate, and who is getting paid. He believes it’s something that many companies should be investing in to better protect consumers.

”Banks, social networks, dating sites, apps, chat apps, they should be implementing something like this in the next 12 months. There is no reason why this shouldn’t happen because the technology is there,” said McClellan.

The technology can help law enforcement track down fraudsters on U.S. soil, but international scam attacks continue to pose challenges because of the lack of jurisdiction.

”The countries need to be working better together whether it’s your local municipal law enforcement, or it’s the FBI and CIA, which they do stuff, but there is really no direct connection and a lack of communication when this stuff happens,” said McClellan.

According to Social Catfish research, romance scams specifically are under-reported with just one in three victims sharing their experience and more than 70 percent of scam victims in general had at least some level of college education. It’s why many consumer advocates are saying our schools need to dedicate more time to teaching online safety.

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