Matters of the heart are a growing concern for local law enforcement and the FBI, thousands of victims are out billions of dollars here in Florida and across the nation.
Guys like Ford Tremblay know all the right things to say. Shelly, who lives in Pasco County, said she was too embarrassed to share her last name. She met Ford, which is not his real name, on Facebook and he doesn’t use his real pictures either.
He gained Shelly’s trust and her heart over two months and endless phone conversations.
This fake 'Romeo' said he was in the Navy and could not access is own account from the ship. He sent her a check in exchange for $1,000 dollars worth of iTunes gift cards. His check bounced and wiped out her account.
She later discovered he lived in Nigeria. The FBI says there are call centers that train men on how to sell themselves, how to start a relationship and how to string them along.
If you think you could never fall for an online romance rip-off, consider Debbie Montgomery's story. She rose to the rank of Captain in the Air Force and worked as an intelligence officer.
At 51 and widowed she met Eric Cole, a British contractor on a faith-based singles site. Cole wrote thousands of love letters over two years. Then he went after her savings one loan at a time. In all, Montgomery lost more than one million dollars to a man she later discovered was a con artist named Joseph in Nigeria.
The FBI reports people in Florida and across the country lost 1.3 billion dollars to romance scams in 2016.
Victoria Magliaro met her romance artist on the dating website "'Our Time" but he lived right here in Tampa Bay. They dated for five months before he ran off with her computer and her car. She says he also opened a credit card account before the sheriff’s office threatened to file charges and he returned her belongings.
Looking back, Magliaro says her boyfriend never invited her into his home, to meet his circle of friends or family which should have been a warning.
Whether your swiping, friending or flirting online, take the time to do some basic background checking. Google their name, address and phone number. Use Google's reverse image search to help you figure out if they are using a fake name or photo. Go online to the Clerk of Court's office in the county they live in, from there you can look up everything from lawsuits to criminal charges.