Kathy, who asked to share only her first name, said she didn’t realize she was being played until she watched popular Netflix show ‘The Tinder Swindler’, but at that point she had already spent all his savings.
She said after nearly two years at home during the pandemic, she felt lonely.
“And it got me thinking. If something like this happened, you know, again, I don’t want to be alone. You know, I want someone here,” Kathy said.
So she decided to give online dating a try and signed up for SilverSingles, a site for people aged 50 and over. She said she met a handsome older gentleman who took her away.
“I thought I was in love because every time I heard about him my heart would burst. And it was interesting, exciting,” she said. “And after every phone call before we hung up, we took turns praying and even that, he was really cute.”
Kathy said he wooed her with messages like, “Good morning wife, hope you had a good night” and “I love you more than you can imagine.”
But she never met her new love in person.
“I asked to meet him. And he said, ‘Well, I’m leaving for a job in Toronto, and I have to get there fast,'” Kathy said. “A few weeks after he was there in Toronto, supposedly, he said, ‘I need these permits to work here and I need $5,000 for this permit. And they won’t take a check or anything. So I think, well, yeah, I want to help this man. You know, I fall in love with him. Why wouldn’t I want to help them?”
Kathy said she sent him $5,000 for the permit. Then she gave him more money after he had an accident. And then she donated even more money for her operation.
“And I said, ‘I don’t have that kind of money. And then we started discussing where we could get that money. And he kept making suggestions, you know, so I ended up doing a refinance and taking money out against my house,” she said.
And when he needed more money for his various misfortunes, she said she took out loans and sent him the funds.
Kathy said the love of her life sent her a screenshot of his bank account, showing he had the money to pay her back. And even though she still hadn’t met him in person, she was confident that he would be with her soon.
Then one night, she said her friend recommended she watch “The Tinder Swindler” on Netflix, where several women said they had lost thousands of dollars to a man they met online. And that’s when it all clicked.
“I’m going to say ‘Oh my God,'” she recalled. “Everything matched.”
“I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul so I can get that payment because he also ruined my credit,” Kathy said. “I got kicked out of my bank. They closed my account and they were afraid I was laundering money.”
The total amount she sent him is sobering.
“Just over $92,000,” Kathy said.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, over the past five years, people have reported losing $1.3 billion to romance scams, the highest of any FTC fraud category.
In fact, the money lost to romance scams increased sixfold between 2017 and 2021.
Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois, said reports of online dating scams have increased during the pandemic but still remain largely underreported.
“Some feel like they’re really embarrassed that their family is finding out and others we’ve spoken to still believe they exist and are going to come out of the woodwork again,” Bernas said. “People are losing their life savings, and it’s all being done by one crook doing this to hundreds of people.”
Our sister station WLS-TV chose not to show a photo of Kathy’s love interest because most of these scammers steal photos online to lure you in.
The bottom line, Bernas said, is that you can’t fall in love with someone you’ve never met.
“And that’s always a reason they can’t meet you. And that’s what we call scam tipping,” Bernas said.
It was a sobering realization for Kathy, who still can’t believe she fell in love with a con artist. Now she is paying back what she can on her loans and has put off her next retirement until she can pay off her debts.
SilverSingles warns its users that if someone online asks you to send them money, stop communicating with them and report the profile.
Full statement from Spark Network, parent company of SilverSingles:
Safety is always a top priority in everything we do, across all of our brands at Spark Network. When detecting any potential fraudulent behavior, we apply numerous countermeasures. Spark uses external AI-based tools, robust transaction detection, internal filters, and employs a large dedicated fraud team for manual case review. Unfortunately, as with any online activity, there are “bad actors”, but we remain committed to keeping our users safe on our platforms.
We also invest in user education, as shown on the safety pages on our sites (see links below), as arming our community/audience with the right tools is crucial to mitigating dating risk. in line. We also refer our users to the Federal Trade Commission’s online scams site: http://www.onguardonline.gov/articles/0004-online-dating-scams.
Dating should be fun, so we want to make sure our platforms are a safe and comfortable space for our users. We urge any user who suspects someone they are in contact with, or if they are in any of the situations listed below, to immediately cease communication and report the account to our service team. customer.
Below is a list identified by our Fraud/Security team of potentially concerning behaviors that should be reported to our Customer Service team.
Additional information about safe online dating is available on our safety pages:
Thank you for reaching out to this important topic.
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