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One day, scrolling through an online forum, she met Wayne Mays (not his real name) from the UK.Mays is a romance scam-baiter, which means he hangs out on dating sites, posing as a naive love-seeker, with the goal of unmasking — and exhausting — confidence men and women.
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“My friends advised me to go online and try to find someone to share my life with,” she says via Skype.
Firefly spent a lot of time on her profile, thinking she needed to be entirely honest and open if she hoped to really connect with someone.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, online romance scams account for higher financial losses than any other internet-based crime.
It’s not uncommon for victims to lose tens of thousands of dollars.
Within 10 minutes of posting, she had a handful of virtual suitors — and one stood out.
He suggested they ditch the dating site and switch to email.She decided to do a little research online and discovered that, yes, cholera is a problem in Ghana, and yes, treating it can be expensive — except that Ghana actually has a free cholera treatment program.“In that moment, something was not sounding right to me,” Firefly says. But she also realized something else: There were probably a lot of people, just like her, being victimized on dating sites, and Firefly was determined to do something about it.Five years ago, he and a small team of international volunteers, including Firefly, created Scam Survivors, a hotline and information resource center for victims of online scams — mostly, as it turns out, romance scams. “With the romance scam, it could be someone who's been married for a number of years.The site tends to be a last resort for victims who are afraid to go to the police, or to tell anyone in their life what’s happened, because they’re ashamed. Their partner has either died or they've divorced and they've just started looking at online dating.“You pretend to be a victim and string them along, try to get them to waste as much of their time, money, and resources as you can,” he says.