Love hurts! And when it’s a romance scam, it’s a double-edged sword. The FTC reports that people lose more money on romance scams than any other type of fraud. In 2020, romance scams reached $304 million in reported losses. That’s up about 50% from 2019.
From stolen yachts and champion horses to money laundering criminal masterminds, Michelle Gomez specializes in locating hard to find items and people.
“You have to get inside the mind of the criminal,” Gomez explained of her work.
She is a skip tracer, who is part private investigator and part bounty hunter.
“Michelle has the determination. She’s not going to stop until she gets done,” her colleague, AJ Barrera Jr., said.
And she loves taking on cases others can’t solve.
“There is so much fraud going on. Women are getting taken for their money and men are too,” Gomez warns.
Romance scams are the second most reported crime to the FBI. But Gomez said there are ways people can protect themselves.
First, spot the warning signs.
“The moment a man asks you for money or a woman asks you for money… no. That’s a flag. That’s the start of their game,” Gomez said.
Also, be careful if the relationship is getting serious fast or if they break promises to see you in person. The COVID pandemic is making it easier for scammers to provide excuses to cancel first dates. Some scammers may even send photos of themselves to prove they are real, but a reverse image search can find out if the photos are associated with another name.
“If a woman or a man is eager to find love, they are blind,” Gomez said.
Talk to a close friend or family member about your new love interest. They may be able to spot inconsistencies you may miss and save yourself and your wallet from heartbreak.