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Online dating advisor warns of dating scams

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, NY & ORLANDO, FL – After our CBS 6 investigation, an online dating advisor is offering help to prevent people from falling victim to dating scams.

CBS6 first profiled Deborah Guitar’s situation earlier this month.

“He destroyed me, and I didn’t have faith in people,” Guitar told CBS 6.

Guitar, a widow who lives in Washington County, thought she landed a catch when she met “Darnell Michael” on the dating website Plenty of Fish.

“You want to meet someone, just to have companionship,” Guitar said.

The only problem was the pictures used in the profile are not of Darnell Michael. The photos actually show Flamur Gashi, a former Albanian Ambassador. The diplomat is an unwilling participant in what Deb soon realized was a nightmare: an illicit scam.

Guitar unfortunately realized it too late. She had already given “Darnell” more than $70,000.

Eric Resnick runs the site ProfileHelper.com.

“When they have one (picture) that works, they copy and paste it a thousand times,” Resnick said.

Resnick wants to prevent the things that have happened to Deborah Guitar and countless others, like Diane Amanda Standish of Orlando, Florida, another victim CBS 6 highlighted.

“I went through my bank accounts and it was $270,000 - He could be anybody, anywhere. I just don’t know,” Standish said.

“There’s no way to stop someone from stealing an image and using it,” said Resnick.

He’s offering advice to those looking for love online. He says if you aren't sure if the other person's photo is real, run the image through Google Image Search or TinEye.

You can also copy and paste a couple of sentences from the other person's profile into Google and see if it pops up on other dating sites. And perhaps most importantly, it doesn't matter how deeply you've fallen for someone. There is never a reason to send someone you've met online money.

“If they’re local, they have to meet you, and if they have to meet you, it really helps for them to be real,” Resnick said.

Resnick also says making sure someone is real is so key, because online dating is only getting more popular. He says 35% of long-term relationships in America last year started online.

The FBI has an “Internet Crime Complaint Center, " and both match.com and Plenty of Fish feature sections of their sites, specifically warning users.

Plenty of Fish cautions “Never respond to any request to send money, especially overseas or by wire transfer... Wiring money is like sending cash: the sender has no protections against loss and it’s nearly impossible to reverse the transaction or trace the money.”

To find out more about ProfileHelper.com, click here.

Link to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (“IC3”)

Link to the Federal Trade Commission’s Information for Online Dating Scams

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