Michigan. (WLNS)- Online dating scammers pretend to be your everything, starting with looks that aren’t theirs. And for Instagram model Tom Ernsting of Michigan, it’s his face that’s been getting scammers paid thousands.

“I’d get a message once a week that someone had used my picture. And then it just snowballed. They were stealing money and defrauding them using my image,” said Ernsting.

He says people find his real social media accounts and say they’ve handed over more than $200,000, to who they thought was him, but, wasn’t.

“The most outrageous accusations, they start having a conversation with me and I have no idea what they’re talking about. And it’s because they weren’t talking to me,” said a confused Ernsting.

One woman spent her and her husband’s retirement fund of $150,000, thinking she was in a relationship with Ernsting.

“What makes it even more interesting is that I’m gay. So many people are falling in love with this gay guy and they don’t even know it,” said Ernsting.

After researching he came to find that scammers have been targeting single mothers in their 30s and 40s. And in the research, he also found that it’s not just one scammer, but a team of them overseas.

“It’s big business in Lagos to just set up shop and do it all day long and take identities and try to swindle people out of money,” said Ernsting

And he’s right, the Better Business Bureau says the trend is happening often.
It put out tips on what to look for when dating online- its biggest one, never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.