#onlinedating | Local Singles Fall Victim to Vicious Online Dating Scheme

Meet Margaret Moreno, a Mesquite woman who lost $5,000 to a man named “Michael.”

David Lurie, in Dallas, shelled out nearly $3,000 to a woman named “Monica.”

Ally, from Frisco, lost so much money to “Christopher” that she doesn’t want to show her face.

They all thought they found the love of their lives online, but they were wrong. 

“I want to be loved so bad. I want someone to take care of me,” said Moreno.

Her loneliness lead her to the world of online dating. After trying a few sites, Moreno met Michael who had her hook, line and sinker.

They never met, but that didn’t stop him from asking her for money.

It was for his business, he said. Moreno saw it as an investment in their future.

“He would brighten my day. It felt good to have someone to talk to,” she explained.

But before Michael could finally see her, he said he needed $10,000 to pay off a debt.

Moreno refused and she never heard from Michael again.

“My car got repossessed. Bill collectors are calling. I pawned a lot of jewelry,” she said. “My family doesn’t know about this. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to live anymore. I was suicidal.”

If you thought her story was crushing, you haven’t met Ally.

She sent a total of $45,000 to a man named Christopher.

“He told me he would pay me back, so I never thought I was losing money,” she said.

Every time it was time to see her, she said Christopher was a no show. When Ally finally confronted him about who he really was, he was gone.

“I was in love,” she said. “He really broke my heart.”

David Lurie said men his age can fall in love just as hard.

“I’m an older gentleman, but I’m not dead,” he said.

He met Monica on Facebook and thought she was “the one.” But after sending thousands to her so-called Nigerian orphanage, he never heard from her again.

“I was heartbroken. I was really in love with this woman,” Lurie said.

Many of you may be wondering, how could anyone possibly fall for this type of scheme? Relationship expert Dr. Carol Cole said it could happen to anyone.

“It’s not a matter of, ‘Am I smart enough to avoid this?’ It’s a matter of, ‘Am I in a vulnerable place?”https://www.nbcdfw.com/” she said.

Cole said those most likely to be conned are typically going through a major life change like a divorce, job loss or an empty-nester.

Unfortunately for Moreno, it was the sweet words of her so-called companion that left her emotionally and financially scarred. She’s taking a break from dating, but not giving up on love just yet.

“Don’t give up. Just be careful. Don’t let someone break your heart,” she said. 

The Better Business Bureau offers these tips to avoid online romance scams:

• Check their photographs. Typically, if an image is used in a scam, you can search the image and find that it is connected to other names or places. However, there are ways for scammers to work around this, so be cautious.

• Search the text. Many scammers are dealing with multiple victims at a time, so they will likely stick to a script. Search any unusual or suspicious phrases in a profile or email. You may get results from others who have been contacted in romance scams.

• Use the State Department to transfer emergency funds. These con artists often pretend to be U.S. citizens working overseas or members of the armed services. The State Department recommends sending money through their OCS Trust, which requires recipients to provide a photo ID to collect money.

• Check to see if there is a real business overseas. If the fraudster claims to own or work for an overseas business, you can always call the U.S. Embassy in that country and ask them to verify the company and provide background for you.

• Stay off a site where you’ve been defrauded. Romance scammers often sell lists of their victims to other scammers, so once you’ve been a victim in an online romance scam, you may be more vulnerable to them in the future.

• Don’t send money to someone you haven’t met in person. While this may seem like common sense, most romance scams revolve around elaborate stories that explain why they won’t be able to meet you for quite a while. However, if someone you haven’t met in person starts asking for money, it is most likely a romance scam.

To learn more about online romance scams, visit bbb.org.

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