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As the number of dating sites and social media apps has gone up, so too has the number of romance scams reported — from 17,000 in 2017, 11,000 in 2016, and 8,500 in 2015.Last year, the median loss reported was ,600, which is seven times higher than the median loss for other forms of fraud tracked by the FTC.every time he listened to me, and let me talk and put my feelings out there, that filled a hole.What was the timeline he gave you as far as when you might meet, or when his work would allow him to be in the United States again?But again, I wasn’t anticipating anyone not telling me the truth, so I just figured, well, he’s an international contractor, maybe they don’t have those guys listed on the company roster. I felt like I understood what he was doing, because at the time, I had investments in trees in Costa Rica. So for me, that was kind of a sign, that this gentleman works in a business I have an investment in.

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The first couple of guys that reached out, I thought, Then I was contacted by a fellow who was from London, who was an international businessman and a widower. At that point, I knew there was a difference between the divorced guys, and the widowed guys. I really did some due diligence, because I had been an Air Force intelligence officer, I’d been a senior branch manager at a bank, and I’d had some legal training, so all that kind of kicked in, and I started looking around to see who he was.

There was just a different way they felt about my situation, because they’d been through it. He contacted me through the dating site a few times, and then he said, “Look, I’m traveling.” He was in Houston, and he had just gotten a big contract in Malaysia. I called the company he said he was a contractor for, and they didn’t know who he was.

Given victims’ presumed complicity in these scams (because, technically, their money is given voluntarily), and the resulting stigma, it’s likely that online relationship scams are much more prevalent than even FTC reports suggest.

The Cut spoke to the victim of one such scam, Debby Montgomery Johnson, now 60, who lost more than a million dollars to a scammer between 20._________ How did you meet the man who would eventually scam you? I’d been married for almost 26 years, and he had a sudden heart attack and died. Lou left [for a short trip] on a Wednesday, and I got the call Thursday morning. Lou and I had been in the military, and when we went off on temporary duty, we always said “Good-bye, and see you soon.” It was kind of like that.

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