San Jose woman loses over $300,000 in online dating scam

A woman who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in an online search for love is telling her story exclusively to ABC7 News.
January 16, 2014 3:52:13 PM PST
A woman who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in an online search for love is telling her story exclusively to ABC7 News. She wants to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else. It's a story you'll see Only On 7.

The victim is in her 60s and is divorced. She was looking for companionship and she thought she met a nice man online, but he was a crook. She's putting her embarrassment aside to try and prevent another person from falling prey.

"This individual seemed very interested in my life situations," she said. "Came across as a strong Christian person, prayed with me."

This woman does not want to be identified. But you don't need to know who she is to learn from what happened to her.

She started communicating with a man on the dating website Christian Mingle. Emails, instant messages, even phone calls. He seemed like a catch.

"I got stranded in a city with a dead battery and this individual stayed with me, I believe it was 90 minutes making sure I was safe cause he said he wouldn't want no woman of his to ever be in a situation without help," she said.

But then he asked for money. At first it was a few thousand dollars for his daughter's tuition. She wanted to help and tried to be smart about it, getting bank account info and paperwork on all the transactions.

Ultimately she gave him more than $500,000. Much of the money came from the victim's retirement account and was obtained by refinancing her home. Thankfully, someone in her life intervened and they went to authorities.

Santa Clara Deputy District Attorney Cheri Bourlard was on her case.

"We all want to trust one another," Bourlard said. "I know in the olden days we used to do business on a handshake. That's just not possible anymore, not with international crimes that are going on."

She says these so-called "sweetheart scams" are happening more and more on dating websites. Bottom line -- never give money to someone you haven't met in person.

The bad guys don't make it easy. Our victim says he sent gifts and isolated her from loved ones, telling her no one would understand what they had.

"They will come across as someone who is caring, loving," she said. "They will find where you're vulnerable and leverage that for their own good. I want the public to be careful. If it seems too good to be true, it's probably fraudulent."

Ninety-nine percent of the money is gone and no one is arrested. However, in a rare twist in this case, authorities were able to intervene in time to alert a Turkish bank about the last wire transfer of $200,000.

An associate of the Nigerian suspect was arrested trying to get the money and our victim got the $200,000 back; less than half of what she lost.


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