Kathy, who asked to only use her first name, said she didn’t realize she was being played until she saw the popular Netflix show The Tinder Swindler, but by that point she had already spent her entire life savings .
She said after staying at home for nearly two years during the pandemic, she was lonely.
“And that got me thinking. When something like this happens, you know I don’t want to be alone. You know, I want someone here,” Kathy said.
So she decided to try online dating and signed up for SilverSingles, a site for people aged 50+. She said she met a handsome older gentleman who blew her mind.
“I thought I was in love because every time I heard from him my heart just burst. And it was interesting, exciting,” she said. “And after every phone call, before we hung up, we would take turns praying and even that, he was really sweet.”
Kathy said he courted her with messages like “Good morning missy, I hope you had a good night’s sleep” and “I love you more than you can ever imagine.”
But she never met her new love in person.
“I asked to meet him. And he said, ‘Well, I’m going to a job in Toronto, and I have to go fast,'” Kathy said. “A few weeks after he was there in Toronto, he reportedly said, ‘I need these permits to work here and I need $5,000 for this permit. And they won’t take a check or anything.’ So I think, well, I want to help this man. You know I’m falling in love with him. Why wouldn’t I want to help them?”
Kathy said she sent him $5,000 for approval. Then she gave him more money after he was involved in an accident. And then she gave even more money for his operation.
“And I said, ‘I don’t have that much money.’ And then we started talking about where we could get that money from. And he kept making suggestions, you know, so I ended up refinancing and borrowing against my house,” she said.
And when he needed more money for his various misadventures, she said she took out loans and sent him the money.
Kathy said the love of her life sent her a screenshot of his bank account showing he had the money to pay her back. And though she still hadn’t met him in person, she trusted that he would be with her soon.
Then one night, she said her friend recommended she watch The Tinder Swindler on Netflix, where several women said they lost thousands of dollars to a man they met online. And then everything clicked.
“I’m like, ‘Oh my God,'” she recalled. “Everything fit together.”
“I rob Peter to pay Paul so I can get that payment because he ruined my loan too,” Kathy said. “I got kicked out of my bench. They closed my account and they were afraid I would launder money.”
The grand total she sent him is sobering.
“A little over $92,000,” Kathy said.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, over the past five years people have reported losing a staggering $1.3 billion to love scams, the highest of any FTC fraud category.
In fact, money lost to love scams has increased six-fold from 2017 to 2021.
Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois, said reports of online dating scams have surfaced during the pandemic but still remain grossly underreported.
“Some are really ashamed that their family will find out, and some that we spoke to still believe they exist and will come out of the woodwork again,” Bernas said. “People are losing their life savings and it’s all being done by a scammer who is doing this to hundreds of people.”
Our sister channel WLS-TV has chosen not to show a picture of Kathy’s love interest as most of these scammers steal photos online to trick you.
The bottom line, Bernas said, is that you can’t fall in love with someone you’ve never met.
“And it’s always a reason why they can’t meet you. And that’s what we call the rip-off tip,” Bernas said.
It was a sobering realization for Kathy, who still can’t believe she fell in love with a cheater. Now she’s paying what she can on her loans and has postponed her upcoming retirement until she’s debt-free.
SilverSingles warns its users that if someone asks you to send them money online, they will stop communicating with them and the profile will be reported.
Full statement from Spark Network, SilverSingles’ parent company:
Safety is always a top priority in everything we do across all of our brands at Spark Network. When we detect potentially fraudulent behavior, we take many countermeasures. Spark leverages external AI-based tools, robust transaction detection, internal filters, and employs a sizeable dedicated fraud team to manually review cases. Unfortunately, as with any online activity, there are “bad actors” out there, but we remain committed to keeping our users safe on our platforms.
We also invest in user education as evidenced by the safety pages on our websites (see links below) because it is crucial to equip our community/audience with the right tools to mitigate the risks of online dating. We also direct our users to the Federal Trade Commission’s online dating scam site: http://www.onguardonline.gov/articles/0004-online-dating-scams.
Dating should be fun, so we want to make sure our platforms are a safe and comfortable place for our users. We urge any user who suspects that someone is communicating with them, or if they are in any of the situations listed below, to stop communicating immediately and report the account to our customer support team.
Below is a list of potentially worrying behaviors identified by our Fraud/Security team that should be reported to our Customer Services team.
For more information on safe online dating, visit our safety pages:
Thank you for reaching out to us on this important issue.
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https://abc13.com/tinder-swindler-scam-online-dating-netflix-illinois/11751101/ Tinder Swindler: A woman from Aurora, Illinois realizes she’s being scammed after watching a Netflix show