Hi there, my name is Alec Couros. If I have shared this page with you, there is a good chance that you’ve been the target of a romance scam (aka catfishing) and may have been led to believe that you are in a relationship with someone who looks like me. However, you should know that scammers have been using my personal photos for nearly a decade to deceive women in order to defraud them of money or assets. A helpful definition of romance scams is shared below.
“A romance scam is a confidence trick involving feigned romantic intentions towards a victim, gaining their affection, and then using that goodwill to commit fraud. Fraudulent acts may involve access to the victims’ money, bank accounts, credit cards, passports, e-mail accounts, or national identification numbers or by getting the victims to commit financial fraud on their behalf.” (Wikipedia)
I am well aware of this issue and have done my best to report scammers in the past. However, due to the sheer volume of fake profiles under many different names on hundreds of social networking and dating sites, it is simply not possible to request the take-down of each fake account or to communicate personally with the hundreds of victims that contact me each year. Unfortunately, social networking services (e.g., Facebook) typically do little to address this issue when brought to their attention. As well, I have reported this to my local police and they were unable to do anything due to the fact that these scammers are not within their jurisdiction.
I have been doing my best to bring this to the attention of the media and to social networks such as Facebook, Google, Skype, etc. However, there has been little to no response, and it is my strong belief that these corporations, in their lack of action against this growing problem, have now become complicit in these illegal activities.
If you are interested in learning more about my experience with these romance scammers, please read my blog posts and screencasts on the subject, linked below.
- Identity, Love, and Catfishing (September 2013)
- Would the Real ‘Alec Couros’ Please Stand Up (April 2014)
- How To Detect Scammers with Google Reverse Image Search (April 2014)
- Facebook’s Identity Authentication is Broken (October 2014)
- Dot.con – Documentary on Internet Scams (November, 2014)
- Google+ Impersonation Reporting is Broken – Fix This! (May 2015)
- How Romance Scammers Port Video Files Over Skype (August 2015)
- Romance Scams Continue and I Need Your Help (October 2015)
- My AMA (Ask Me Anything) On Reddit (February 2016)
- More Catfishing Woes (February 2016)
As well, here are several media reports on my personal experience with these scammers.
- Regina man’s identity used in online romance scamming (CBC, October 2014)
- How online scammers created a fake identity using little more than my picture (Geekwire, November 2014)
- Local tech expert takes issue with police cyber crime knowledge (Global News, August 2015)
- When identity thieves targeted beloved open course teachers, Facebook sided with the crooks (Boing Boing, November 2015)
- Saskatchewan professor starts website to help catfishing victims (Saskatoon Star Phoenix, February 2016)
And finally, here are some useful resources for learning more about romance scams including support groups that are dedicated to raising awareness, reporting fake profiles, and ultimately stopping these scammers.
- ‘Are You Real?’ – Inside An Online Dating Scam (AARP)
- RomanceScam.com (reporting and support group)
- Romance Scams (Facebook group)
- Dating & romance (Scamwatch)
- Faking it – Scammers’ tricks to steal your heart and money (FTC)
- Tineye (search engine dedicated to reverse-image search)
- 419: The Internet Romance Scam (Documentary)
If you would like to contact the REAL me, join me at my Facebook page or my Twitter profile.