Damien Pate started to panic when the love interest he encountered online turned out to be part of a scam.

“I could end up in jail,” Pate said. “I could lose my job. My heart started to beat very fast. I didn’t know how to react.

Last Monday, the 28-year-old was on the Adam4Adam dating site when he received a message from a man named “Chad” who claimed to be 21.

“He told me he had just moved from South Carolina,” Pate said.

They chatted and then exchanged phone numbers and nude photos. The next day, Pate received an angry text from someone claiming to be Chad’s father, saying that Chad was only 16 years old.

“He was going to file a complaint unless I went to Walgreens and bought two Green Dot money cards and put $ 300 on each one,” Pate said.

Embarrassed and afraid of going to jail if he didn’t pay the $ 600, Pate called the police.

“They explained to me that it was a scam,” he said. “Don’t send money.”

It’s a “sextortion” scam that Sergeant Michael Warren of the MNPD’s fraud unit sees all the time.

“They want you to be so scared that you are going to buy the moneypak and send them $ 500 or $ 1,000,” Warren said.

Warren says it can happen to anyone, no matter what dating site they use.

“They don’t discriminate,” said Sgt. “We see Plenty of Fish, Match, all of those types of websites.”

Warren says most sextortion scams start out innocent and then get racy, with the scammer sending or requesting private photos.

“They start to threaten to expose you to family members, husbands or wives or other important people,” Warren said.

It’s a threat Pate wants to expose to keep others from losing hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

“It’s a serious thing,” Pate said. “It’s not something you take lightly.”

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