OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – Erin Hawkinson of Mustang/Yukon had a therapy private practice, her own home, and thousands of dollars in Bitcoin before she became a victim of a romance scam. She is now telling her story in the hope that others don’t fall for the same scam.
“I trusted my heart on this and thought it was him. I was sure it was him,” said Hawkinson.
KFOR interviewed Hawkinson in a church shelter with her three daughters nearby. Hawkinson emotionally explained the timeline of events that led to her losing nearly everything after what she thought was a six-month relationship. Near the end of the interview she called and spoke with the man she believed scammed her.
Hawkinson said that she doesn’t normally fall for scams and that as a therapist she didn’t expect what ended up happening.
“I was thinking that because I had the knowledge as a therapist I could somehow save myself and I didn’t,” said Hawkinson. “I still fell for it, I still fell in love with someone and I still believe it was him six months later.”
Hawkinson said that she had started messaging a person named Jeffrey Alex.
“He approached me through TikTok and we started talking and he was very charming,” said Hawkinson. “I said okay we’ll just be very cautious here. We shared a lot of laughs and he was very charming with me then we started getting a little more in-depth.”
She said this Alex person told her that he wanted to pursue a future with her. Trust was built between the two over the next month or so.
“I ended up blocking him,” said Hawkinson. “Two other ladies approached me online and said he was texting them requesting money.”
He would change his username again and Hawkinson would fall for it again. The person returned as Austen Alexander, a Youtuber with a large following. This time the pictures would match the person he was allegedly imitating.
“I called him out on it and it eventually became an inside joke between us, calling him Jeffrey when his name was Austen,” said Hawkinson. She said at this point she was in love with him.
“I loved him so I just wanted to believe,” said Hawkinson. “He even had his mom email me at some points and she would ask about our relationship and how things were going. I would check in with her on occasion.”
This whole time, Hawkinson said that she never talked on the phone or saw ‘Alexander’ face-to-face.
“His mother messaged me and told me that Austen doesn’t want to send any kind of video or information because he wants to see if you’re truly loyal to who he is and his fame,” said Hawkinson. “He used to not be like this but being famous has made his life like this.”
Hawkinson said that excuses continued to be made as to why he couldn’t send videos or do video calls. This whole time she said that she was sending money to help him out.
“It started small like he mentioned he didn’t have money and wanted a pizza,” said Hawkinson. “So I would send him some money to help. It started to get bigger and bigger.”
She started giving more and more money until she had no more.
“I drove 20 hours out to California to where he lives to see him,” said Hawkinson. “This last week he told me he wanted a German Shephard or Labrador. I ended up getting the dogs and brought it out to him.”
She said that she never ended up physically meeting him while out there.
The relationship evolved into plans to get married. Hawkinson said that they were expected to elope on August fifth so she began selling things in her house.
Eventually, Hawkinson said she ended up selling her house. For six months she had given around $30,000 to the scammer. Their wedding never ended up happening and she filed a police report with the Oklahoma City Police Department listing Austen Alexander.
“I know it’s embarrassing, I know I look stupid but that’s why I want to tell my story so others don’t have to go through what I went through,” said Hawkinson.
The real Alexander video called in during the interview and said that this has happened several times with several different women.
“It’s happened so often that I started just being kind of cold with how I treated the situations,” said Alexander. “These scammers use my name and my identity to get men and women to submit Bitcoin through online transactions.”
He said Hawkins isn’t the worst case that he’s heard of while his name was used.
“I have heard of a woman losing $55,000 over two years,” said Alexander. “It’s hard to make it to where these people can’t use my name or face anymore. But these new accounts are created every single day. If you search on Facebook or Instagram Austen Alex or Austen Alexander you’ll find hundreds and hundreds and it became draining.”
“And that’s the hard part is I feel stuck in this alone,” said Hawkinson. “Because I still feel like it’s still him and not the person that might’ve stolen his identity. That’s why I’m sharing this story and that’s why I’m so angry because I feel that and I also feel embarrassed.”
“I’m a single mom now homeless and I know I didn’t make the right decision,” said Hawkinson. “I genuinely want this world to be a better place. I still at my core believe it was him and I don’t know how to change that.”
Romance scams are extremely common. In 2022 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that Americans reported record losses of $1.3 billion to romance scams with median losses of $4,400.
According to previous FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network (Sentinel) sources, Americans have also reported losing $493 million in 2019, $730 million in 2020, and $1.3 billion throughout 2021.
“I just want my mistakes and my downfalls to hopefully help someone not do the same,” said Hawkinson.
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