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Rip-Off Alert: Social media users falling victim to online catfish scammers

Social media users continued to be duped by catfish scammers. (KSNV file)

A scam that's been common on social media for years continues to have more people falling victim.

One woman wants to get the word out and warn others.

Her story begins with another -- someone claiming they were serving in the Armed Forces -- but that claim was actually part of what authorities call a "catfish" scam.

Leslie Wilson started chatting with someone on Facebook claiming to be a U.S. soldier last month.

"I could've just walked away and said forget it all and just let it go but I just feel like at least my place to let people know that it's happening and let them know how easily you can be scammed," said Wilson.

While they hadn't met, they messaged every day and Wilson thought it was a real relationship.

Then last week, he said he needed personal information to have their relationship recognized by the military ... which she gave him.

"After that, within another day, two days, it was when the $950 so we can make all of this legal," said Wilson.

That's when she knew it was a scam, but Michigan State Police say many people realize that when it's too late.

"If you have not met them in real life, you have no idea who they are, then that is not your quote-unquote friend, especially in the Facebook world," said MSP Detective Greg Hubers.

Hubers says catfishers create good fake personas and often use military or honorable professions to lure people in.

Just like in Wilson's situation, he says it's textbook for the relationship to move quickly and for them to ask for money.

"I can guarantee that it's a scam. I can't picture any real-life scenarios where someone would need that money that is not related to you or you haven't met in real life," said Hubers.

Luckily, Wilson didn't send the money but says she still feels like a victim.

"It more or less just makes you angry at this point that somebody is playing around with somebody's mind and their feelings and making them think that there's this beautiful wonderland out there that's not really out there," said Wilson. "It's all just somebody sitting behind a computer somewhere that has no feelings or heart."

Leslie says she believed it at first because he was able to send her a lot of pictures, but police say catfishers can grab those from anywhere and likely the pictures and names they're using are not the same people.

Police recommend reporting the profile to Facebook directly -- which is what Wilson did.

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