A woman who fell victim to an online dating scam is set to lose her home after ending up more than $350,000 in debt.
Pamela Viles, 69, of Sarasota, Florida, was wooed on the online dating website match.com by a man claiming to be an Australian-born business owner with a Canadian passport, who went by the name James Lazenby.
She told WWSB News that soon after they met online, he began to text daily and call once a week.
“This was intimate, love, details, dreaming, so so deep. I felt like I really knew him closer than anybody that I had known,” she told the station.
Over the course of two years, he would send her small sums of money but asked for much bigger ones in return, citing business problems. She applied for credit card loans and took funds from her personal checking accounts.
She also believed that he had sent her authentic funds and so sent $900,000 in a fraudulent wire transfer funds overseas.
Now $350,000 in debt, she expects to lose her home. She said that she had a “little bit of dementia,” which meant she could not think clearly. Her daughter has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for her.
The webpage states how Viles “wanted to have a relationship with someone and a happy life like her peers. They took advantage of how caring my mother is and she sent all her money to help him.”
“She’s too old to work and had knee surgery a few weeks ago and she’s having swelling and needs help. This morning she thought she had a heart attack and I rushed her to the hospital, which turned out to be a panic attack.
“My mom is a wreck, embarrassed, crying, and had to tell this to everyone in her life and it’s taking a physical toll on her,” the page said.
The FBI has warned people to be on the lookout for such online romance scams, which are known as “catfishing.” It said criminals send phony images from other websites and create fake profiles that were crafted to match the victims’ interests.
“Their most common targets are women over 40 who are divorced, widowed, and/or disabled, but every age group and demographic is at risk,” the FBI warned in a statement.
Match.com has a page informing people how to avoid being scammed and warns people not to send money or travel expenses.
“Our moderation team manually check photos and personal ads across the site and a built-in screening system helps identify suspicious accounts, remove them and prevent re-registration.
“While we are confident that our measures ensure a high level of security, we urge members to maintain vigilance while dating online and report any suspicious profiles to safeguard other members,” the website states.