Within 10 minutes of posting, she had a handful of virtual suitors — and one stood out.
One day, scrolling through an online forum, she met Wayne Mays (not his real name) from the UK.
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.
“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.
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.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, online romance scams account for higher financial losses than any other internet-based crime.