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“You pretend to be a victim and string them along, try to get them to waste as much of their time, money, and resources as you can,” he says.Mays would post any identifying details that scammers used online — from the email addresses they created to the back stories they recycled — to make them searchable. But for Mays, who co-hosts a scam-baiting podcast, “it’s also like improve comedy.” Most people aren’t turning to him for comic relief, though.“My friends advised me to go online and try to find someone to share my life with,” she says via Skype.Firefly spent a lot of time on her profile, thinking she needed to be entirely honest and open if she hoped to really connect with someone.(I know; red flag.) “He even called me, calling me ‘Mom’ a few times,” she says.Then, after about a week of heavy correspondence, Firefly’s boyfriend announced his son’s birthday was coming up, and suggested she send him a gift. It was pretty gratifying, she says; the son was ecstatic.
Mays is a romance scam-baiter, which means he hangs out on dating sites, posing as a naive love-seeker, with the goal of unmasking — and exhausting — confidence men and women.Whatever you do, he adds, don’t ever pay them — that will only make a scammer more aggressive.As for Firefly, she now refuses to date anyone she doesn’t meet the old-fashioned way, face to face.According to Mayes, they’ve handled more than 14,000 such cases in the past three years. Go deactivate all your social media accounts,” he says.In Mays’ experience, romance scammers typically target 30 to 40 people a day, and will eventually move on to easier prey if they encounter resistance.