RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As we approach Valentine’s Day, many of us have our thoughts turn to love, but criminals use that need for romance to prey on people.
One victim of romance scammers is a North Carolina man whose been victimized by having his name and photos used by criminals to trick people out of money in the name of love.
Go on Facebook and look up the name “Scotty Slagle.”
You will find scores of profiles with that name and all of them using the same picture.
That’s because the former Marine had his online photos stolen by romance scammers.
“They’re using my name, my photos, my kids names,” said Robert “Scotty” Slagle.
It’s not happening to him just on Facebook.
He supplied CBS 17 Consumer Reporter Steve Sbraccia with a screenshot of an Instagram profile using his name and military background used to trick the love-lorn.
But it’s not just one fake profile.
He showed CBS 17 dozens and dozens of those fake profiles out there he’s discovered over the last two years.
As fast as he reports them, he says, new ones pop up.
“I started getting DMs from people,” he said. “Some are hateful, some are letting me know people are using my photos on different platforms.”
“Romance scams are big business for scammers,” said Alyssa Parker of the Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina. “In the U.S. and Canada in past 5 years, victims have reported losing a billion dollars.”
One victim of the fake “Scotty” lost thousands as Slagle found out after the victim tracked him down to tell him about the scammer.
“There was a lady from Korea and she contacted me,” he said. “She had fallen in love with my pictures and she sent $25,000 to this person.”
That woman tracked Slagle down using a reverse image search.
Experts recommend you do a reverse search when you get a profile photo from someone who claims to be romantically interested in you.
You can find many reverse image websites online. You just upload the photo in question and it’ll show you where on the web it’s found. If there are multiple profiles with the same photo, that’s a red flag.
Sometimes it’s not always money that romance scammers want,” said Parker. “It could be credit card information, your personal info or government ID numbers.”
Other red flags:
- Be wary of someone who never wants to meet in person
- Relentless messaging to keep the conversation going
- Efforts to develop the relationship too quickly
- Requests for money
Romance scams have so many variations that it’s hard to keep track.
The website Social Catfish just completed a study on romance scams.
It says they’ve spiked during the pandemic as a result of the isolation many of us are undergoing.
Social Catfish has a lot of resources available here to help you if you’re victimized by those criminals.