NJ Woman, 76, Duped Out Of $125K In Online Romance Scam: Cops

EVESHAM TOWNSHIP, NJ — An elderly South Jersey woman went online searching for love, but instead fell prey to a man who duped her out of $125,000, police said. The woman, who was not identified by police, is just one victim in a growing trend of online romance scams.

The 76-year-old Evesham resident met 30-year-old Sulaimon Kadelu on the online dating app “OurTime,” which is marketed to people 50 years old and older, according to Evesham Township police.

He asked her to send him $125,000 to help him come to the United States and become a resident, so they could continue their relationship in person, she told police.

So she went to the bank and got a loan. She then shared access to the account the loan was in with Kadelu, police said. Police were able to identify Kadelu using ATM cameras where he withdrew the money.

He was then arrested by Old Bridge police on Sept. 25, and then turned over to the Evesham Police Department, police said. Kadelu was charged with second-degree theft and second-degree money laundering. He was lodged in Burlington County Jail. The money has not yet been recovered.

Romance scams topped the list of total reported losses last year, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Total losses reached $143 million. The median loss of $2,600 is about seven times higher than it is for other losses related to fraud, according to the FTC.

Scammers, who use phony profiles and fake pictures to create an online persona, lurk on dating websites as well as social networks not generally used for dating, such as Facebook. They establish a relationship with their target, then claim they need money to help arrange a meeting, or for a medical emergency of some kind.

Victims most frequently targeted are between 40 and 69 years old, according to the FTC. People over the age of 70 tend to pay the most, with an average median loss of about $10,000.

In some instances, the consequences can be far-reaching. A Millville man was recently arrested for working with residents from Ghana to scam 30 people out of a total of $2.1 million, according to federal authorities.

One of the women victimized in that romance scam took her own life after being tricked into wiring more than $93,000 to 35-year-old Rubbin Sarpong. Read more here: Tragic Details Revealed In Alleged NJ Online Romance Fraud Scheme

There are more risks associated with online dating sites, as well. In the spring, a Roebling man was arrested after he lured a woman he met through an online dating app to South Jersey and sexually assaulted her in a secluded area, according to Cinnaminson police. Read more here: Man Sexually Assaulted Woman He Met Online In Cinnaminson: Cops

Last week, the FTC announced it is suing Match Group for creating fake profiles on its dating websites to trick users into paying for subscription. Match Group runs Match.com, OK Cupid, Tinder and Plenty of Fish, among other sites. It also alleges Match Group exposed its users to the possibility of fraud.

Police provided the following tips to avoid falling victim to an online romance scam:

  • Stop communicating with the person immediately.
  • Talk to someone you trust, and pay attention if your friends or family say they’re concerned about your new love interest.
  • Do a search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, you could do a search for “oil rig scammer” or “US Army scammer.”
  • Do a reverse image search of the person’ profile picture to see if it’s associated with another name or with details that don’t match up – those are signs of a scam.
  • If you think it’s a scam, report it the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Notify the website or app where you met the scammer, too.
  • If you paid a romance scammer with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card right away. Tell them you paid a scammer with the gift card and ask if they can refund your money.

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