IT'S EASY to get swept up in the fantasy when a handsome stranger messages you.
But when it becomes apparent that they're not who they say they are, the story normally ends there.
Nicole Hayden, from Florida, was amazed when a stunning stranger messaged her on Instagram.
The mum-of-two thought nothing of it when a charming man, who called himself 'Marcus' showered her in compliments.
After a few weeks of flirty chit-chat, things turned sour for the 38-year-old.
Speaking to The Post, she revealed that she had been a victim of a vicious extortion plot.
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Nicole realised things weren't as they seemed when her suitors romantic endeavours escalated quickly.
He asked her to marry him and suggested they should spend Thanksgiving together.
“At that point I knew it was some sort of scam,” she said. “We barely knew each other. I just blocked him,” she confessed.
Thinking she'd escaped the stranger, Nicole moved on with her life.
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That is until he found her phone number and messaged her, threatening to leak photoshopped nude photos of her if she didn't send him £4,500.
Now she was certain she was involved in a nasty scam, Nicole didn't budge.
“I said they could do what they wanted,” she said, “I wasn’t going to give them anything.”
Not giving into the hefty demand, Nicole tried to forget about the incident.
Months later, the Florida resident came across pictures of her suitor turned scammer, but this time under the name Alessandro Cinquini.
To Nicole's surprise it was the real person behind the pictures the scammer had been using.
Discovering that he only lived an hour away, she decided to reach out to the real handsome stranger.
Alessandro knew that his photos were being used by scammers and catfishers, but had given up trying to stop them.
Nicole decided to take a chance and meet up with Alessandro.
"At first I didn’t want to get my hopes up because of where it all stemmed from.
"But the fact that I have this relationship now that is growing romantically is pretty amazing. Especially given what happened before it.”
Despite other women still coming forward, convinced Alessandro is behind the scams, the duos relationship is going strong.
Talking about the crazy journey Nicole said: “It’s just beyond ironic."
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