COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) – Sandy, who asked to only give her first name, called our KKTV 11 newsroom after losing of thousands of dollars to a man she met online. She wanted to share her story to hopefully educate others against falling for a similar scam.
“A year ago if you met me, you would’ve said, ‘She would never have fallen for that,’ and look what happened,” Sandy said.
It all started in October 2019. Sandy said she had just gotten home from visiting her cousins who had encouraged her to sign up for Facebook. She made an account, and within days, a man she didn’t know added her as a friend. Sandy accepted. After a few days, the man asked Sandy to move their conversations to Google Hangouts for “security” reasons. He deleted his Facebook account.
The man claimed to be a U.S. doctor working in Afghanistan for the United Nations.
“I said, ‘Why would a doctor be interested in me?’ and he’s like, ‘Well, why not?’” Sandy said. “So we talked for probably, I’ll say three weeks, and then the money part started.”
Sandy said the man was smooth, calculated.
“It was almost like I was — I’ll say in a trance.”
The so-called doctor’s first ruse was that he needed Sandy’s help to get a box filled with $4.2 million. The man promised Sandy would see some of that money if she put up funds to help get the box. This scam cost her about $30,000. She sent the man the money through bitcoin, which is digital cash.
Sandy started to get suspicious of sending the man bitcoin, so he convinced her to start getting him gift cards.
“I’m like, ‘A gift card for what?’ ‘Well, I have to have data so I can talk to you. I have no money. I don’t have blah,’ and it led into $17,357 worth of gift cards in a two-week span,” Sandy said.
As part of the ploy, the man would appear to put money in Sandy’s account so she could buy thousands of dollars’ worth of gift cards. When she would check her account again, the man’s deposit would be gone.
“I explained to the credit card company what I did, and they told me because I gave him my information, I was liable for the bill,” Sandy said.
During this time, Sandy said her family tried to convince her it was all a scam, but she kept hoping the man was real. She said he knew exactly what to say to get her to keep talking to him.
“’I really love you. I want to marry you,’” Sandy said, describing what the man would say to her. “’You are just the most beautiful person.’”
Sandy said she filed an FBI report and a report with the Colorado Springs Police Department. She also called 11 News reporter Jenna Middaugh.
“Once I called you and you called me back, and we talked a little bit, this little light bulb kind of went off in my head,” Sandy said.
Jenna recommended Sandy reach out to AARP Fraud Watch Network, an organization that tracks scams and offers support to people who have fallen victim.
A woman from AARP called Sandy back and encouraged her to stay away from social media. The woman also told Sandy some red flags she had seen after taking similar calls from people. That information helped solidify in Sandy’s mind that the so-called doctor was really a scammer.
“I went into Hangouts. I blocked him. I went into my apps. I forced stop the app and then I uninstalled it,” Sandy said.
Now, she wants others to learn from her experience.
“I don’t care who you are, how smart you are, how dumb you are, how whatever,” Sandy said. “People need to understand this is real. This is real. I have lost $97,000. My total life. 401K. Savings account, everything. It’s real.”
You can report scams and fraud to AARP Fraud Watch Network by calling 877-908-3360. You should also file a report with your local police department or sheriff’s office.
“We get a lot of romance-type scams where somebody meets somebody on Facebook, and they have a friendship, you know, internet romance, I guess, and they’re sending money over to that person,” said Sgt. Joe Matiatos. He supervises the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Financial Crimes Unit.
Matiatos said his detectives are sometimes able to track down scammers if the victim transferred money into the suspect’s bank account and has that information. Most of the time, though, cases involving financial scams are hard to investigate.
“If we don’t have any account information and you just sent money to somebody, usually can’t get that money back.”
Matiatos said he reads reports about people falling for scams all the time. His best advice is to be suspicious of anyone you meet online.
“If it’s something that just sounds too good to be true, if I’ve just met somebody I’ve never met, and all of a sudden we’re in love and they’re asking me for money. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t. I say that of all the scams.”
Copyright 2020 KKTV. All rights reserved.