LAKE WORTH, Fla. (CBS12) —
Yearning for a deep meaningful connection–then ripped off.
A new warning is out from the state.
It concerns looking for love on the Internet and dating apps.
The state says romance scams are turning widows, divorcees, and singles into victims.
One con man we learned about had such a vivid imagination, he didn’t just create a false identity, but family members for that false identity, an entire life story cooked up –waiting for a click.
“So what happened here is, he just got my heart and my head just went with it,” said
Lake Worth author and entrepreneur Debby Montgomery Johnson.
Johnson was mourning her husband’s death.
She had a lot of anxiety about dating again.
As a strong Christian woman, she thought a faith based website would be safe.
She met Eric Cole. A British businessman. He said he traveled a lot, but loved his family, loved the lord, soon, Debby was in love with him.
Though they’d never met in person, she says their conversations filled her with joy.
“Actually, some friends of mine had met men that they ended up marrying– on that particular site, so I thought I was very safe, it was LDS planet– I don’t even know if it’s still out there,” Montgomery Johnson said.
Then Eric started asking for money for various business endeavors and personal favors, Debby didn’t feel right about it, but she agreed. All told, she says she gave Eric over a million.
“And he said ‘Deb we need to do this, we have to set up a bank account, so that the money can come back to you as I’m traveling.’ ” Montgomery Johnson recalled.
One day Eric said he had to come clean. He said he was overwhelmed with guilt. And he confessed–well Eric didn’t– but the man who created him did. A Nigerian named Joseph.
“I said you have lied to me for two years, you’ve stolen over $1 million from me.” Montgomery Johnson told CBS 12.
According to the most recent information, the Pew Research Center reports 15 percent of U.S. adults have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps.
FL’s Office of Financial Regulation has issued a warning, singles, put your guard up.
And romance scams are hard to prosecute because, like in Debby’s case, the money is given willingly, even though under false pretenses.
Debby has written a book about her experience and wants her story to be a warning for others.
“Well if someone wants to think I’m a dummy, that’s their opinion, but I’m speaking up for women who don’t have a voice,” Montgomery Johnson said.
If you have been a victim of a romance scam, you need to contact the FBI.