AUSTIN, Texas - In 2015, Christopher Maxwell was in school and needed money.
"I got a phone and I went on Instagram, and I see this guy’s picture, he’s a military guy, and I take those pictures," said Maxwell.
The former Nigerian ‘romance scammer’ would first cultivate a friendship with women online and slowly win them over.
"I know every woman likes a great sense of humor, someone that can keep the conversation going, someone that listens, someone that is nice and someone that cares about them," he said. "So I give them a lot of attention. I talk to them every day, every part of their life, I know everything about them. I'm there to pursue them and to make them happy…I make them fall in love."
He says the amount of time he would wait before a request for money varied with each relationship. Sometimes, it took quite a while, but that’s always eventually where the conversation went.
Over about 4 or 5 years, he estimates he brought in over $40,000.
Statistics from the FTC show that in 2022 alone, nearly 70,000 people reported a fraudulent romantic relationship and reported losses hit more than $1 billion nationwide.
According to FBI data gathered by Social Catfish, a company dedicated to preventing online scams through reverse search technology, the state of Texas came in at number two for states with the highest reported losses at about $60 million.
Using "reverse image search," Social Catfish also released the 100 most common photos used in romance scams last year.
According to the FTC, the most popular ‘excuse’ in these kinds of online relationships is claiming to be on a military base.
Maxwell noted another major red flag is if someone in an online relationship won’t use Zoom, FaceTime or a similar platform.
"I can see you right now, you can see me, I'm real," said Maxwell in the Zoom interview with FOX 7. "If someone’s not going to talk to you on video, it’s fake, very fake."
To read a leaked romance scam training manual, click here.
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