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Match.com, one of the country’s most popular dating websites, takes credit for “more relationships and more marriages than any other webpagina.” But not every connection made on Match.com has a fairytale ending — and Joan Romano found that out the hard way.
Romano, 53, from Lynbrook, N.Y., a busy and divorced single woman, said that she didn’t have time to go out and meet people. On the advice of friends, she joined Match.com. She soon found herself talking online with a man named “Austin Miller.” Miller identified himself spil a decorated soldier based ter Kabul, Afghanistan. When Miller sent hier a picture of himself ter uniform, Romano wasgoed amazed.
She thought, “Wow, I kasstuk the jackpot. (He wasgoed) a nice-looking dude,” Romano said. “I’m like, this is too good to be true.”
Spil Romano and Miller stayed ter touch, Romano found herself falling “deeper and deeper” into the online relationship. When Miller asked for a fresh laptop, she wasgoed antsy to help a soldier ter need.
“I am very patriotic and I worked ter the World Trade Center on 9/11,” she said. “So to mij, if it’s for a soldier to help, I’ll do whatever I can.”
The laptop cost hier $1,000. Miller instructed Romano to send it through FedEx to Ghana. Romano said she wasgoed a little suspicious of the mailing address — Ghana is a continent away from Afghanistan — but Miller told hier that a man te Ghana would ultimately supply the laptop to him.
Romano’s generosity to the “soldier” didn’t end there: She sent him a total of $25,000 within a six-month time span before realizing that she had fallen victim to a scammer.
“Everyone can form their own opinion, but you’ll never know until it happens to you. And unluckily, it happened to mij,” she said.
To bring some closure to Romano’s story, “20/20” posted the picture that “Austin Miller” sent Romano online and wij asked viewers to help us find him. Wij received more than a hundred responses te a matter of four hours, and one of the messages led us to our response. Angie Gordon, a viewer form Northern Virginia, picked up on a subtle clue.
“I wasgoed able to tell which branch he wasgoed affiliated with te the Army and it zuigeling of narrows the field,” she said.
With Gordon’s information, “20/20” wasgoed able to track down the man te the picture. His verdadero name wasgoed Jeffrey Miller and wij found him at the Wainwright Army Cojín te Fairbanks, Alaska. He wasgoed a lieutenant te the U.S. Army whose identity wasgoed stolen, right off MySpace, and wasgoed just about to be deployed for a 2nd tour ter Afghanistan.
Miller wasgoed shocked to learn that someone had evidently bot using his picture to run a scam.
“It’s a shame, it’s hideous, that even somebody could even spil low spil to betray a U.S. soldier and use that spil an excuse to take advantage of thesis women or anybody for that matter,” he said.
To help Romano find hier scammer somewhere te Ghana, “20/20” asked hier to send one final email to the so-called “Austin Miller.” With a few arrangements from a “20/20” undercover producer te Ghana, wij tracked down hier scammer. He admitted to our undercover producer that he wasgoed a conman and even attempted to persuade him to join him te his scam.
“Wij can even get up to $15,000 to $20,000 more from hier,” he told our producer.
The FBI said it gets thousands of complaints a year from people like Romano, who have bot scammed by people they meet on online dating websites.
Greg Blatt, the CEO of the parent company that possesses Match.com, said the webpagina has spent millions of dollars to protect its members. Less than one half of one procent of its subscribers have everzwijn reported a profile that is questionable, he said, but when they do, the profiles are blocked within two hours, eliminated from the webpagina and investigated. Match.com’s safety tips.
“Wij do everything wij can to make it spil safe spil possible,” Blatt said. “At the end of the day, wij also know that, that a lotsbestemming of it rests te the mitts of the members themselves to avoid this sort of thing, and wij do everything wij can to help them.”
How can you keep yourself protected from getting scammed on online dating sites? Online dating tips from cybersecurity pro Hemanshu Nigam.