Romance scams have been around forever. The first recording of one may be in the Bible. Remember when Delilah tricked Samson into cutting off his hair?
A romance scam is a con game which involves faking romantic interest in a victim, gaining their affection and then bartering that good will for fraud. Te fraudulent acts might involve access to the victim’s money, passports, email accounts — or dinner.
Los Angeles prosecutors have nailed the defendant called “Dine and Dash” with more felony counts of extortion.
Paul Guadalupe Gonzalez, 45, was indicted of more than 10 counts of extortion and two of attempted extortion for luring women to nice restaurant before dining and disappearing while his victims were given the bill.
One victim told CNN in a phone interview that the experience was “humiliating.” “I was frustrated, and it left me in a bad place.”
The victim who wanted to use the pseudonym Jane, wrote a check for $218 to Houston’s, a restaurant in Pasadena after Gonzales, 45, walked out.
Jame claimed to have met Gonzales on the dating site Bumble.
“We chatted back and forth and he was charming.”
Gonzales order drinks and a $48 steak. After the meal, Gonzales stepped outside supposed to call and check on his hospitalized Aunt.
“He left after his food was gone,” Jane told CNN. “I’ve never seen anyone eat so fast.”
A Las Vegas based psychologist who specializes in treating patients with social media problems says Internet dating sites permits predators to cast a wide net. Predators use technology to manipulate, groom, lure and get people where they want without any risk of being caught.
“The defendant’s wrongful conduct induced innocent third parties to pay for his meal using the threat of public embarrassment or being seen as an accomplice,” said Nicholas Wooldridge, Las Vegas criminal defense attorney.
Scammers like Gonzales post profiles on a dating website and classified sites. Often they use online forums to search for new victims. When they identify a target, the scammer lures them to a more private form a communication and continues the game.
The age of the web, with its infinite of strangers and swiftly evolving social mores, has been nice to con men. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, which tracks internet-facilitated criminal activity, received nearly 300,000 complaints in 2016, reporting total losses of more than $1.3 billion.
Of those, more than 14,500 were for relationship fraud, a number that has more than doubled since 2011. In 2016, relationship scams were the second-most-costly form of Internet fraud (after wire fraud), brining scammers nearly $220 million. By comparison, Americans lost only $31 million to phishing scams, about $2.5 million to ransom ware attacks, and $1.6 million to phony charities.
If Gonzales is convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of sixteen-years in prison.