Special Report: Catfishing - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

Special Report: Catfishing

ALBANY, N.Y. – All day, "Bob Jones" gets emails and text messages from his girlfriend Rose, the two have been dating online since July but have never met.

Bob recently got out of a long term relationship; which is why he says he, like many Americans, decided to give internet dating a try.

"She said she was from Newark, N.J. and seemed to be smitten right away," Jones said. "We spend a lot of time talking; I call her my faux girlfriend, because we haven't met."

He says he's also sent her a large amount of money. How much?

"Close to $4,000 in smaller increments," Jones said.

Bob is considered a victim of romance scamming, an illegal form of Catfishing.

Special Agent of the FBI's Cyber Squad Eric Luric says Americans lost $50 million to romance scam artists in 2012.

NEWS CENTER spoke with "Kate Smith," who is a former Catfish.

"I think of it as taking advantage of someone," Smith said.

What she used to do is completely legal.

"I would start talking to someone online and would not give my name. I would assume a new name and things I liked to do," Smith said.

"Why did you do it?" NEWS CENTER'S Christine O'Donnell asked.

"I guess to increase myself worth," Smith said. "I didn't really feel that good about myself."

Special Agent Luric says the type of Catfishing Kate is talking about is the most common type in the U.S., and though frowned upon, the FBI doesn't get involved unless a catfish turns into a romance scammer.

NEW CENTER did some investigating and found "Rose's" Facebook page. We messaged her and tried calling her on a number she'd given to Bob. Someone answered, denied knowing Bob, but started asking NEWS CENTER to send them money.

The Resident Legal Attaché at the US Embassy in Nigeria says Rose is most likely a male fraudster working to steal thousands of dollars from Americans who think they are dating her.

"It does complicate the investigation because it's not as easy to deal with someone overseas as it is someone in the United States" Luric said.

Bob says he's submitted a complaint to the FBI about Rose and though he realizes he's being scammed; he says he still finds it hard to let go.

Rose even sent him a text asking for money during his interview with NEWS CENTER.

"She's wondering where I am," Bob said checking his phone. "It's confounding because some of it seems truthful," Bob said. "Can someone lie all the time?"

Special Agent Luric says catching and prosecuting these scammers is not a top priority; their focus is on counterterrorism, so the public is pretty much on their own.

Here are some warning signs you're speaking to a romance scammer:

-- Very early on in the relationship they started calling you by a pet name or such as 'darling'

-- They prefer to contact you privately through instant messaging and text messages rather than through the dating website or chat room where you met

-- They don't give answers or are vague about where they live and work

-- They've mentioned that they need money

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