You never think it can happen to you — until it does. This is the case for dozens of women who fell for an online dating scammer who lurked across Match, OkCupid and other popular digital matchmaking sites. According to a report from the BBC, a man originally from Ghana who lived in New Jersey posed as an American Soldier to woo the ladies — and steal their money.
Just how much hard-earned dough? A whopping — and terrifying — $2.1 million.
And while we usually hear about men being scammed by women, this time, it’s the females wondering how they were fooled. The catfish, 35-year-old Rubbin Sarpong lured an estimated 30 or more matches in by explaining he was serving overseas in Syria. He claimed to be a decorated soldier who was awarded gold bars from the military, and promised his soon-to-be victims he would pay them back once he returned to American soil. Convinced he was trustworthy and dutiful to his country, one woman even sent him $90,000. When she figured out his true identity, police reported she committed suicide.
In a statement about the case, FBI expert Gregory Ehrie said this type of situation, while sad and seemingly-crazy, is actually more common than most realize: “Unfortunately, we live in an era where every contact we have with a stranger online must be viewed through the lens of scepticism. Fraudsters are constantly searching for ways to separate people from their money in order to reap a profit while putting forth little effort.”
So, how do authorities catch these deceitful people? This time, Sarpong gave himself away via Instagram. According to screenshots of his old profile, he bragged about his riches including a money gun (yep, like what you see on TV), jewelry, cars, tech goods and fancy watches. And while he claimed he couldn’t afford an attorney, the judge denied his request since hey, Insta doesn’t lie.
If you’re ever matched with someone who starts asking you to wire ‘em money or anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s in your best interest to unmatch them ASAP. Don’t just stop there either, since police say it’s also helpful to protect others by reporting the behavior to authorities. This way, criminals like Sarpong will get the sentence they deserve.