OPW -- Nov 18 -- It's easy to write off scammer victims as being a screw loose. I mean, who would be dumb enough to part with thousands of dollars with someone they had never met? But, it's happening every day, and chances are it's happening on your dating site. This scammer victim made a believer of me. She doesn't have a screw loose, she was just vulnerable. Here's my interview with her. - Mark Brooks
On what dating site were you first contacted by a scammer?
On [this could have been your dating site!]. He said he was from Paduca, Kentucky. His English was pretty good. He sent me a few emails wanting to get to know me better and I wrote him back a couple of times. He then wanted to chat on Yahoo, so we started doing that. After about our third chat, he sent me some pictures of himself and I found him to be very handsome. He would send me lots of wonderful love letters about our chats from the night before, what he wanted to do, where he wanted this to go. He said he was looking for a long-term commitment.
How long was it before he asked you to do him a favor?
A month. The first time he was working over in Ghana. He said he was an engineer from Kentucky and he was trying to come back home. He was going to get his plane ticket when somebody robbed him of something like $800 in the backseat of a taxi. He said he passed out from shock and awoke in a hospital. I received a phone call from somebody I had never spoken to in my life. The people who would call me had a very different accent from his French accent. By the time he got out of the hospital, his visa had expired. His first request for money was to bail him out of jail. They supposedly detained him because of his expired visa and he needed money to get out of jail and pay for a visa so he could return to the United States. He asked me for $2,500 and, after a long time of pleading, I wound up sending him $1,200. I didn’t know what to think at the time. He was so good with his words and made me feel so sorry for him. I wanted to see him. I had real feelings for him.
How long was it before he made another request?
I would say three weeks. I’m not sure. After he got out of jail, he had to wait for some paperwork to be processed for the $25 million check he was bringing back. It wasn’t terrorist or drug money – it was for the work he did over there – and he needed the necessary paperwork to validate the money. While waiting for that to be sorted out, he supposedly got sick with malaria and some other things and had to be hospitalized. He didn’t have the $550 for the hospital bill and they wouldn’t release him until it was paid. So, I sent him money for that.
But, that wasn’t the second time. There were other times in between. All in all, I’ve probably sent him close to $10,000.
When did you realize the fellow was bogus?
I started questioning him probably about a month ago because there were just too many excuses for why he wasn’t getting here. He was supposed to be here on such and such a date. He would send me his itinerary for his flights to New York and I would go online to look them up, to see if he was lying. He always said he paid cash at the ticket counter. Nothing was adding up, so I started questioning him on things.
And then he started to act funny. I couldn’t call him too often because it cost me too much money and he started getting all, “Okay, fine. Be that way. Bye.” And then he would call me again and just beg for help. It was one thing after another. He needed $2,500 for the certificates (Drug Free, Anti Terrorist), so I helped with that. And then he needed money for more plane tickets because the tickets he had expired while he was detained. When he finally got to London, he then discovered the ticket he had from London to New York was no good and he needed more money to get to the States. He used to call me from a Ghana number, but then he started calling me from a London number. So, I didn’t know. He said if I helped him with that, he’d find a way to get to me in Minnesota.
How long was it from when you first talked to him through to one month ago?
Four months. And to this day, he’ll still email and IM me. If you could read the emails and the IMs. They were very personal, very intimate. I’ve saved probably 30-40 emails and even more chats from him. I thought I was in love.