“I missed being in love” Romance scam victim swindled out of life savings | #datingscams | #lovescams | #facebookscams

BALTIMORE — A Pennsylvania woman is warning about romance scams, especially during the holiday season when people are looking for love and connection.

Scammers will invest their time developing a relationship with their victims in order to steal as much as they can. Sadly, it cost Kate Kleinert everything.

“His name, atleast he told me his name was, Tony Richard and he sent pictures of a very handsome doctor,” said Kleinert.

The photos are of a real doctor, but they’re not the person who contacted Kleinert on Facebook.

The impostor told her they shared similar interests and their chats quickly morphed into daily phone calls.

“He said the most beautiful things to me, and I had been widowed for 12 years at that point and it was just nice to have a man ask me at the end of the day, ‘How was your day, hunny?’” Kleinert said. “I didn’t realize how much I missed that, and I missed being in love.”

The man claimed to be in Iraq working on a United Nations contract as a surgeon and due to safety concerns, he couldn’t Facetime or carry money on him. After four months of communicating, Richard asked a favor for his daughter.

“She needed a gift card and that started the whole business,” said Kleinert.

Kate bought a $100 Visa gift card, took a photo of the numbers, then sent it to Richard. Then came more requests for upgraded cell service, money for food, and a plane ticket to visit Kleinert.

“All told, I gave him $39,000 and had nothing myself, nothing,” Kleinert said.

She thought she still had Richard, who promised to pay her back every penny when he visited in December 2020.

“December 10th came, I had gotten my hair done, my nails done, I had a new dress, I was waiting for him to call me from the airport to come pick him up,” said Kleinert.

He didn’t show. The next morning she got a phone call supposedly from his attorney.

“When Tony went to get his bag off of the carousel, two policemen stepped up and arrested him that there were drugs in his bag,” Kleinert said.

The attorney told Kleinert he needed $20,000 for bail.

“I’ve gone through my savings, the rest of my husband’s life insurance, my 401k, I have nothing left. ‘Well, you need to go to your family, sell your car, how about cashing in your life insurance policy,’” the attorney told Kleinert.

Kleinert then realized she’d been lied to.

A reverse Google image search matched the photos of Richard to a plastic surgeon in Spain whose photos are being used by scammers.

“But even though I lost all of my money, everything that I had, the worst part was losing the love and the life that I thought I was going to have with him and the kids,” Kleinert lamented.

Two years later, Kleinert is still experiencing repercussions from this devastating ruse. She put everything on credit cards and couldn’t afford the interest or to pay her bills, and this summer, she couldn’t afford to repair her central air conditioning.

“And I got this portable air conditioner, which July 16th my house burnt down from that and I lost everything, so I was stripped of my money, now I’m stripped of all my possessions,” said Kleinert.

Her family and AARP have stepped in to support her. And despite everything that’s happened, Kleinert has found purpose in sharing her experience to warn seniors and educate law enforcement.

“That thought process of it’s your fault when it’s not the victim’s fault,” said Kleinert. “If I stop one person from falling for something, it’s been worth it.”

Kleinert believes she was targeted because her Facebook profile listed she’s a widow. She’s since made it private.

If you’re unsure whether you’re communicating with a scammer, talk it through with your family and friends. Do a reverse Google image search with the photos they’ve sent. And never send any money to someone you’ve only interacted with online.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network also has a toll-free hotline that people can call to report scams. It is available to all members and non-members, free of charge. AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline: 877-908-3360. The toll-free service is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.

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