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Facebook, Instagram ‘catfish’: US Colonel’s photo used to scam women

Chyrel Muzic was in love with retired US Colonel Bryan Denny for two years.

The Queensland woman thought all her “dreams had come true”.

But the problem was Col Denny was actually married with a family in Virginia and had no idea who Ms Muzic was.

media_cameraThe man Chyrel Muzic thought she was in love with, Colonel Bryan Denny. Picture: ABC/Four Corners
media_cameraMs Muzic was charmed by his good looks and tricked into sending money. Picture: ABC/Four Corners

The pair met online for the first time in a F our Corners program on Monday night.

Ms Muzic had fallen victim to an online dating scam but not before she’d already transferred $40,000 to her suitor, who’s likely somewhere in Nigeria.

Professor Monica Whitty, of the University of Melbourne, told the ABC women were often talking to more than one criminal, probably a gang of them.

Now Ms Muzic is determined to make sure other women don’t fall victim to scammers, with thousands duped across the world and many further targeted.

media_cameraThe pair meeting online for the first time. Picture: ABC/Four Corners

Sydney grandmother Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto has been sentenced to death by hanging in Malaysia after an appeal court unanimously overturned her earlier acquittal on drug smuggling charges.

The mother-of-four was caught with 1.5kg of crystal methamphetamine, also known as ice, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on December 7, 2014.

The court had previously heard Ms Exposto fell victim to an internet romance scam and that she was tricked into believing she was in Shanghai to lodge documents for her online boyfriend’s retirement from service in the US army.

The man apparently identified himself as “Captain Daniel Smith,” and claimed to be a US soldier stationed in Afghanistan.

media_cameraThousands of accounts Col Denny has found with his photos. Picture: ABC/Four Corners

Col Denny runs a Facebook page called Advocate Against Romance Scams to alert people to the scams and get the social media giant to take them down.

He said in the last two years he had reported more than 3000 accounts to Facebook after scammers used his picture to steal money from women.

“I’ve been in love with you for two years,” Ms Muzic laughed when she met Col Denny on Skype in the surreal moment captured by Four Corners.

“I thought all my dreams had come true.”

media_cameraHe’s not the only one it happens to, with upstanding military men usually targeted. Picture: Facebook/Advocate Against Romance Scams
media_cameraWhile people report the fake pages, the group says Facebook often does not take them down. Picture: Facebook/Advocate Against Romance Scams

Col Denny said it was a traumatic situation for anyone.

“This happens to a lot of people, it’s big business and the people who are doing it are taking advantage of people,” he told her.

“It does take a toll. It’s been tough for my family to deal with to a degree.”

Professor Whitty said in the worst cases victims were put on a “suckers list” and their information likely sold on the dark web for other criminals to use it.

“The criminals involved in this are definitely masters of manipulation,” she told the ABC.

Have you fallen victim to a dating scam? Comment below or continue the conversation, stephanie.bedo@news.com.au | @stephanie_bedo

Originally published as Hundreds of women love this man

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