Love scams, the story of Daniele committing suicide after discovering the deception

The young man took his own life after chatting with a mysterious Irene. In reality he was a 64-year-old man from Forlimpopoli. Romance scams, as experts call them, involve 4,000 Italians every year and are worth 4.5 million euros. Here's how to defend yourself

  scams-love-online-romance-scam-1920 Martino Brunetti, deputy commissioner at the Postal and Communications Police Service

21 September 2021: Daniele, 24 years old, a handsome boy from Forlì, a tuft of fashionable hair and a physique sculpted by daily hours at the gym, a surveyor diploma and economic well-being ensured by a job in his father's successful construction company, goes up to the attic and hangs himself from a roof beam. Reason? For over a year, Daniele chatted, exchanging over 8,000 messages, with Irene Martini, a beautiful twenty-year-old with whom he fell madly in love. He has never met her, nor has he ever talked to her on the phone about her, yet she dreams-reciprocated-of moving there soon, starting a family and having children. But all of a sudden, Daniele discovers that his Irene is actually a 64-year-old man from Forlimpopoli (Fc) who had fun orchestrating this horrible joke (also impersonating Briam, brother of Irene and Claudia, her best friend) for the perverse taste of subjugating a fragile person and trampling on his feelings.

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THE REASON FOR THE SUICIDE - “The thing that really made me want to take a life is that I felt taken for a ride by someone I don't know. You have devastated me emotionally and psychologically, realize what you have done to me», wrote the young man, for the last time, to Irene. Daniele's case is the tragic epilogue of a much more widespread phenomenon than one thinks: it's called romance scam love scam. At least one million people around the world fall into the trap of clever cheaters every year. Someone, as in the tragic story of Forlì, does it for the pleasure of exercising a sort of evil absolute power over the unfortunate, all the others to capitalize on the sort of hypnosis induced with the dream of the great love story , inducing the victim to empty their bank account with increasingly large wire transfers.

IN ITALY THE LOOT IS 4.5 MILLION - It is estimated that in Italy, in 2019, there were at least 4,000 'love scams'. In 2021 this number more than doubled with over 4.5 million euros ending up in the pockets of skilled manipulators. And this is the so-called tip of the iceberg, numbers that photograph the phenomenon very much by default. 'People who end up in this kind of trap almost never report, since a sense of humiliation and shame prevails,' says Martino Brunetti, deputy commissioner at the Postal and Communications Police Service. 'And when, investigating some international money laundering ring, we discover strange flows of money coming from the current accounts of some ordinary citizens, these then tend to minimize, closing themselves in front of the evidence'.

THE NGO TO DEFEND THE VICTIMS – American Chelsea King, victim of a love scam that cost her $35,000 in 2015, founded , a site that collects 60,000 stories of victims: they are all strictly photocopied stories. Incredible, but true: the script of the scam is exactly the same everywhere, but people always fall for it. 'In 60% of cases, the predestined victims are women in their fifties who are widowed, divorced or in any case with a long-lasting sentimental relationship behind them, who are trying to regain possession of a dream of life', explains Brunetti. However, as the bitter case of Daniele di Forlì teaches, in love at the time of social media, the devil hides behind every byte and almost anyone can fall into cleverly prepared traps. 'The most powerful drug in the world is love,' says Monica Whitty, a psychologist at the British University of Leicester, the world's leading expert on romance scams.

AN ALWAYS THE SAME PLOT - «This kind of thing happened even before the advent of the internet, with jackals lurking on the pages of lonely hearts ads published by newspapers and magazines», explains Whitty, «but in front of a computer and mobile phone there is an immersion so deep and rapid in the personal exchange as to create such a dilatation of emotions that eliminates certain inhibitions and makes people much more fragile'.
The love scam with the most typical of scripts, which happened in Italy, concerns a certain Laura C., invented name. 'The lady, in her early fifties, living in a northern city, had recently interrupted a very long life together with her ex-partner', continues the deputy commissioner at the Postal Police Service. «One day, on a popular social network, you receive a friend request from a self-styled American general serving in Africa. Start a conversation through the messaging service that gets thicker day by day; until the American reveals to her that although he has a life full of professional and economic satisfaction, he lacks the most important thing, love, which he believes he has found in him as her interlocutor.

THE SCAM IS SERVED – Totally involved, the lady gives in to the flattery of her suitor: the 'general' informs her that he has finished his job and has already bought the plane ticket which will finally lead him into the arms of his beloved with whom he will be able to spend his first unforgettable holiday of his life. Everything is planned down to the smallest detail, but on the long-awaited day of departure for Italy, an annoying unexpected event occurs: the general sends a message to the lady in which he explains that he is stuck at the African airport customs. He says that a series of specious objections are brought against him, nothing serious, but he risks having to undergo a trial and having to remain on the spot for weeks. The only way is to bribe the official who would let him embark, but for a whole series of reasons, it is impossible for him to access his current accounts and withdraw the necessary cash. What a shame! It is basically a modest sum that stands between him, her and her dream of love. The lady falls for it and offers to reclaim that sum (which of course – assures the general – will be immediately returned). All solved? Not at all. Further difficulties and unforeseen events begin to arise, for which additional sums of money are needed to overcome. The lady pays a total of almost one hundred thousand euros. And the self-styled American general finally…disappears».

ITALIAN SCAMS - That of the high-ranking officer with stars and stripes is an almost fixed character in the drama of Italian love scams. In 2018, another American general - who later turned out to be a 23-year-old Ghanaian, residing in Germany - met a couple from Iglesias, in Sardinia, on social media and convinced them to pay him 250 thousand euros, the sum necessary to 'clean up' a loot of 13.5 million dollars collected in Afghanistan, with which he would have repaid them double the amount loaned. The same 'general' also deceived a woman from Cagliari who, madly in love, transferred him 30 thousand euros. In 2021, yet another self-styled American general with a rigorously false profile on Facebook, hooked up with a lady from Scauri, in the province of Latina, stealing her 16,000 euros with the usual system. Also in 2021, some imaginary soldiers of the American Marines in Iraq and Syria, between imaginative firefights and very dangerous special operations, circuited a group of ladies from Ferrara on the usual social network, giving up up to 70 thousand euros.

HOW TO DEFEND YOURSELF - «To begin with, when you are hooked by a character who exhibits on their social page, or sends privately, captivating photos of themselves, it is advisable to search on those images with the 'goggle lens' tool, i.e. by clicking on the camera icon which is located to the right of the Goggle string», says Deputy Quaestor Brunetti. 'If those same photos were stolen from the social profile of an unsuspecting user, it is very likely that the search engine will report it'. Precisely with this system, Daniele di Forlì finally unfortunately discovered that the photos of his beautiful 'Irene' actually belonged to an Argentine model. «Another rule of caution: if the social suitor informs us that he is at that moment in some exotic place, a beach, a hotel or other, ask him to send you a selfie of him in that place. However, on the site of Postal police, in the Advice section , there is a chapter dedicated to romantic scams, with a series of useful indications. The important thing is to realize that behind this kind of scam there is almost never a single scoundrel, but real, well-prepared criminal organizations that operate from abroad. Not only does that kind of love not exist, but often there isn't even a single interlocutor who manages the drama, but more people - male and female - who take turns. When you get hooked by one of these self-styled characters, we know nothing about them, but they know everything about us. They almost never go at random, but choose their victims carefully, studying open social profiles. Always be wary when some unknown person asks you for friendship: at best it can be a spy profile to gain access to your content. And if they ask you for money, you immediately set off a big alarm bell'. In this case, the wisest thing to do is not run to the bank, but run to the nearest P.S. and report the matter: the Postal Police in fact have all the tools to check if a fraudster is in action, avoiding us and others, burning and expensive rip-offs.