I am a victim of romance scams. My photographs are being used to populate social media, games, and dating accounts online. I have no way of preventing this, except never posting pictures online. Read on to find out more about my experiences.
“Beware of cheap imitations”
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Charles Caleb Colton. I prefer Oscar Wilde’s extended take on the quote: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”
However, when imitation becomes impersonation or the exploitation of others via romance scams, things start to become tedious.
They claim to be divorced or widowed and are looking for friendship and love. What they are really looking for is a way to try to separate vulnerable people from their money.
The Internet is a wonderful resource, but it is also frequented by criminals looking for any opportunity to take advantage of people. One example is stealing photographs online. They then use the pictures in fake online social media, games, and dating accounts for the purpose of scamming people. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to stop the low-life from getting hold of your online pictures except never appearing on the Internet.
They use my (and others) photographs to make their accounts look ‘real’. They claim to be divorced or widowed and are looking for friendship and love. What they are really looking for is a way to try to separate vulnerable people from their money.
Are you a romance scam victim?
Have you been scammed? I’ve provided what I hope are some helpful links for victims of this scam at the bottom of this page, here, and I have included links to the FBI online form for reporting the crimes (yes, the FBI has an online form for this! I was surprised too). Don’t trust my links? Try Googling “Nigeria Oil Rig Scams”.
Check their pictures, you can do that by using Google’s reverse image search feature. If the pictures come up in multiple places with different names, you can be sure they are a romance scammer.
Think I’m faking it too?
I don’t blame you. I shouldn’t have to prove who I am, but here are some ways you can check.
My experience with closing down romance scammers
Unfortunately, some victims persist in thinking that I’m the one who has been scamming them, and insist on hounding me. Oh well.
I have always been aware of the possibility of identity theft online, and one way to counter it is not to hide, but be right out there, so that there can be no mistaking who the real you is. This is unfortunate for the criminals who are currently using my pictures on social media and online dating sites for their vile schemes. As soon as their targets get suspicious an Internet search brings up links to my websites where they quickly realize that they are being duped. Well, most of them do. Unfortunately, some victims persist in thinking that I’m the one who has been scamming them, and insist on hounding me. Oh well.
The irony of this situation isn’t lost on us, given that I met Ginger on the Internet, and that at one point her bank account was frozen by her bank because they thought I was a scammer.
My wife, Ginger says my pictures are being used because I have a friendly face (who am I to argue?). Also, there are lots of pictures of me doing all sorts of fun things, very useful for the made-up scenarios they weave into their nefarious schemes. Me on planes, injuries, accidents, me with Lanie – scammers love those because then they can claim to have a dependant too. There are even some pictures of me that could be construed as mildly provocative! Ha! Well, I can’t see that last one, but I’ll roll with it. The irony of this situation isn’t lost on us, given that I met Ginger on the Internet, and that at one point her bank account was frozen by her bank because they thought I was a scammer.
You may ask why don’t I take all the pictures down and make everything private? Well, the pictures are out in the wild anyway, so there’s no point closing the stable door now the horse has bolted. Plus, I want to share the pictures I take with my family and friends around the world. I also want to have these pictures and words hang around for a while after I’m gone for my grandchildren to see, so they can find out a little bit more about who I am, and our family history. Why should I give in to these criminals and their psychological bullying? My friends, family, customers, co-workers, and contacts have all been kept informed about this criminal activity, all the better to keep an eye out for new scammers so that I can deal with them.
So, here I stay.
Why should I give in to these criminals and their psychological bullying?
My advice to the victims is: report your experiences to the authorities. I am always happy to cooperate and report the profiles of people attempting to con you to the sites they are using. If you don’t report them you are making it easier for the criminals to carry on their illicit schemes – and continue stealing money from people. From the few victims who have contacted me, I know that some of them have been defrauded of quite significant sums.
Whenever I find out about the online profiles impersonating me I contact the site owners and get the imposters removed. I cannot get them all, and the imposters now know that I am on to them, which means they are becoming more crafty and stealthy. To give you an idea of the scale of this, to date, I’ve closed down over one hundred accounts on Facebook alone (and, unfortunately I’m still counting).
Some romance scam account examples
Romance scam accounts on Facebook – All removed
Romance scam accounts on Instagram – All removed
Fabienne Duval – A scammer’s website using my pictures
And the scammers learn to use Photoshop (badly)
The scammers are now resorting to poorly photoshopped pictures. I’d guess that the Instagram account I found is a fake too, but using the original image. It’s very popular on Russian websites. At least he has an ear, it’s not like mine don’t stick out enough.
And now, romance scams on Fitbit
I’ve long known that the scammers are operating in the online gaming world – word games and such, but this is my first one on Fitbit.
Common aliases scammers use with Gary Allman’s pictures
Besides faux Gary Allmans, you may come across:
- Gray Allman
- Mac Garry Allman
- Perry Allman
- Gavin Andy
- Robert Barkley
- Gary Brooks
- Rick Brooks
- Fabienne Duval
- William Giovanni
- James Harris
- James Lance
- Trevor Lawrence
- James Townsend
- David Rhoads
- Garry Young
Popular pictures of Gary Allman, Gray Allman, Mac Garry Allman, Perry Allman, Gary Brooks, Rick Brooks, James Harris, James Lance, Trevor Lawrence, James Townsend, William Giovanni, David Rhoads, and Garry Young used by scammers
Hopefully these will help with reverse image searches and includes a popular picture of Gary Allman, Perry Allman, Gavin Andy, Gary Brooks, Rick Brooks, James Harris, James Lance, Trevor Lawrence, Robert Barkley, William Giovanni, David Rhoads, and Garry Young (or whoever) with Hannah or Alondra – as the criminals have been calling Lanie in my pictures.
So, if you think I’m widowed, I’m not. I don’t live in Dallas, Texas, nor Geneva, Switzerland, or anyplace else other than Springfield, Missouri. Oh, and I don’t want your money – unless we’re out together and it’s your turn to pick up the tab.
If you think this post has been too light-hearted, you might want to consider that humor is one of the few options I have in preventing the scumbags getting to me.
I Think I’ve been scammed resources
Romance Scam Forum: https://www.romancescam.com/forum/index.php (this one is particularly good)
Nigerian Dating Scams: http://www.watchforscams.com/nigerian-dating-scams.html
Social Catfish: Scams : https://socialcatfish.com/category/catfish-stories/
FBI Cyber Crime Page: https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/cyber
About romance scams
Online articles/websites referring directly to my experiences
An article I wrote about my experiences: Unknowing Victims.
Some scams where my pictures have been used: Scammers with pictures of Gary Allman.
Gizmodo Article (this one has a bit about my experiences in it): Pray for the Souls of the People Sucked Into This Dating Site Hell.
Government and reputable media reports on romance scams
Federal Trade Commission (Feb. 2021): Romance scams take record dollars in 2020
Federal Trade Commission (several different types of scam covered here) : Impostor Scams.
BBC article: Scam baiter: Why I risk death threats to expose online cons.
Washington Post Romance Scam Article (Feb. 2019): Romance scams cost Americans $143 million last year, FTC says.
Federal Trade Commission (Feb. 2019): Romance scams rank number one on total reported losses.
Washington Post Romance Scam Article (May 2018): When a stranger takes your face: Facebook’s failed crackdown on fake accounts.
FBI (February 2018): FBI Cautions Public to be Wary of Online Romance Scams.
Reporting a Scammer
Resources for US-based romance scam victims
FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center: https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
Federal Trade Commission: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/Information#crnt&panel1-3