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Former romance scammer reveals how he duped women, and how he's "working on making everything right"

Former romance scammer reveals how he duped women, and how he's "working on making everything right"
Former romance scammer reveals how he duped women, and how he's "working on making everything right" 03:45

BALTIMORE -- Romance scams are a coldhearted federal crime where victims are robbed of large sums of money through promises of love. As one former scammer explained, victims can be easy to find.

"I scammed people," reformed romance scammer Christopher admitted to WJZ, speaking from his home in Nigeria.

"I created fake profiles on dating sites," Christopher said. "I created fake profiles on social media to attract women."

Christopher says he began scamming in 2016 when he was a broke college student.

"Scamming is common in Nigeria, so many people of my age were making more money than I do," Christopher explained. "It pushed me to start scamming because I wanted to make more money."

But his illegal activities eventually caught up to him. "I was arrested," Christopher said. "I didn't go to court, but I was locked up for some days." 

How widespread are romance scams?

Romance scams target tens of thousands of Americans each year.

The scammers typically meet their victims online, develop a romantic relationship with them and eventually bilk them of huge sums of cash, sometimes draining their entire life savings.

In Maryland, romance scams are prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Erek Barron. His office is currently working on a pending case involving a man from the Baltimore area. He is accused of scamming several victims out of thousands of dollars over the course of three years.

"We are doing everything we can to get people to report it when it happens," Barron said. "Then we are putting in the resources to investigate and prosecute. The penalties are very, very significant and we will be very aggressive in getting justice to victims."

Untangling a complex web

The cases can be difficult to prosecute because there are often many victims and the scammers tend to weave a complex web to conceal what they're doing.

Barron says scam and fraud cases are a top priority, so much so that in 2022 his office joined the Justice Department's "Elder Justice Strike Force."

"The main focus is to bring together different law enforcement partners to prosecute elder fraud schemes, typically, where there are targets, both here in the United States and overseas," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Evelyn Cusson, who serves as the Elder Justice Coordinator.

"With the help of a coordinator and a strike force, we can find that not just one victim was a victim of the romance scheme, but this was a wide-ranging, complex scheme which allows us the resources of the federal government," Barron said.

Preventing romance scams

Barron and Cusson also believe preventing scams from happening is just as important as bringing the scammers to justice.

They partner with AARP for PROTECT Week and World Elder Abuse Day in June, which focuses on educating potential victims.

Christopher is also focused on prevention. He says he stopped scamming and, in 2022, began working for Social Catfish, a company that uses reverse search technology to prevent scams.  

He shares his story regularly to generate awareness.

"I'm working on making everything right," Christopher said. "I just want to make everything right."

Learn More about Romance Scams

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