An Australian business executive has detailed how he was swindled out of almost $550,000 in a cruel romance scam after falling for a “beautiful” woman he met on a dating website.
Eddie, a successful 52-year-old corporate worker, was targeted in a sophisticated scheme after he was duped by a 40-year-old “attentive” and “caring” woman he knew as “Kali”.
The widower turned to online dating after spending a “terrible” year alone without his wife of 26 years.
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But his life started to look up again after he struck up a friendship with Kali.
Despite the fact he’d never met or seen her in person, Kali appeared keen to share every aspect of her life with him – including how she recently moved from Australia to the US to look after her frail mum following the sudden death of her dad.
As her mum’s health apparently declined, Eddie said Kali was “distressed” about the rising medical expenses.
With Kali saying she was unable to work while caring for her mum, Eddie offered to give her $933 to cover the cost of her tests.
It wasn’t long before Kali told Eddie her mum was given a shock cancer diagnosis so she needed a $54,000 surgery immediately.
She claimed her parents’ joint bank account was frozen while her dad’s estate was in probate.
So she asked Eddie if he could help her out financially, with a promise she would pay him back.
Eddie took out a personal loan to help her – but her request to “borrow” money didn’t end there.
A “teary” Kali claimed not all the cancer was removed during the procedure so her mum needed further treatments – including chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
She desperately asked Eddie if he could loan her the money for a “short period of time”.
After listing the things she said she needed to pay, Eddie was shocked to see the total come to $492,000.
When Eddie expressed he wasn’t comfortable transferring the huge sum to her, Kali reassured him her dad’s death included a $1 million insurance pay out.
Taking out home loans
Eddie arranged to take out a second, temporary mortgage on his home for the full amount Kali needed to borrow.
After making his last transfer, he waited patiently for Kali’s call.
He didn’t think anything was suspicious as he assumed she was distressed, spending time by her mum’s hospital bed during her life-saving surgeries.
Following a week of silence, Eddie called her – only to discover the number was disconnected.
It suddenly dawn on him that he had fallen victim to an online scammer.
“Shocked and embarrassed”, Eddie contacted Commonwealth Bank to see if anything could be done after he realised he was $546,933 out of pocket.
His bank immediately froze his account and blacklisted the recipients.
But it was unable to recover the funds because too much time had passed.
It’s not immediately known how much time had elapsed between when Eddie’s money had been fraudulently used and when he alerted the Commonwealth Bank to the scam.
But a CBA spokesman said the sooner a bank knows about potential theft, the better a person’s chance of recovering stolen money.
“It is essential that anyone who is the victim of a banking payment scam contacts their bank as soon as possible,” James Roberts, general manager of Group Fraud at CBA, tells 7Life.
“The quicker you alert the bank the better the chances of recovering your stolen money.
“When you contact your bank they will immediately liaise with the recipient bank or entity to preserve any funds and have them returned to you.
“Rest assure, where there is unauthorised fraudulent activity and the customer has taken the necessary steps to stay safe online, our process is to fully reimburse our customers as quickly as possible to minimise inconvenience.”
When it comes to romance scams, Roberts warns there are five typical warning signs to look out for.
- Romance scammers express strong emotions for you in a short amount of time – it’s a technique called “love bombing” and it makes someone more likely to fall victim of the scam.
- After gaining your trust, they tell an elaborate story, and ask for money, gifts or even your bank account info.
- If you don’t send money straight away, messages and calls become desperate, persistent or direct.
- If you do send money, then they ask for more.
- They always have an excuse for not keeping promises about travelling to meet and needing more money.
For Aussies who have started an online romance, Roberts says there are three simple steps to remember.
“Stop. Check. Reject,” he says.
“Most scammers use time pressure tactics to push you into doing something you ordinarily wouldn’t do.
“Next time a call or text feels off then stop, take your time and check it carefully.
“It is fine to hang up and call back that service provider on a customer contact number you can verify on their website.”