Romance victim shares history
HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – Right now, many older people feel alone and want love and friendship, but too many of them are exposed to online predators who promise a romantic relationship.
A local 75-year-old woman said she was told lies by a man she met online, promising. She said she fell victim to an online romance program.
She agreed to share her story but did not want her identity revealed.
He said the man gave her many compliments, shared intimate conversations and told her he was in love.
But then three weeks into their new relationship he started asking her to send money and she lost thousands.
She said he would call and text her all the time, but she had no way of reaching him. She said at first he asked for about $100 in gift cards, but then he asked for more and more money.
She said he would have different reasons for needing the money. She said she sent the money on apps he helped her set up on her phone and wired the money.
“Every time I did it, I knew it was wrong,” the woman said, “but something just makes you do it.”
When she realized she was being victimized, she was upset.
“It hurts. I’m always too trusting, I trust everyone and I’m kind of forgiving. I almost lost my family because of this,” the woman said.
She said her children were upset with her and got involved and hired cybersecurity expert Len Gonzales of Ally Cyber Investigations, LLC.
He was able to investigate the situation and work to help the woman realize that these people were trying to deceive her.
The FBI says the number of elderly victims has risen at an alarming rate.
They said romance scams account for the highest losses reported by victims over the age of 60.
In 2021 – there was a loss of over $432 million, according to the FBI – and the amount of loss continues to grow.
“There are many different levels of these romance scams and online scams that occur,” Gonzales said.
He said criminals will use the same basic script but tailor what they say to the different victims. He said they want to see how much money or how willing the victim is willing to go when he provides personal information.
Criminals reach people through their phones, iPads and computers, but it is often very difficult to trace them, which is why many of them are not arrested when they steal money from victims.
“It’s sad how they take advantage of people and greatly take advantage of the elderly,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales was hired by this woman’s family and was able to help her realize that she was being victimized—and it wasn’t just the man she was sending money to. There were other people on dating sites trying to get money from her. She showed Gonzales the picture of a man she was talking to, and he was able to show her that the picture was actually of a gay porn star whose picture was likely stolen.
Another man managed to hack her accounts after he asked her to read the numbers sent to her phone. She told him the numbers because she didn’t realize he hacked her account.
She said that while she tried to report the problem to Google, she became embroiled in another scam. She said the person on the other end of the phone told her she would have to pay $200 to fix the hacked account. She provided credit card information and personal information.
She said she was first a victim of the romance scheme and then a victim of identity theft.
Gonzales said too many people are not protecting themselves.
– That is why the numbers are so high. That’s why these scams are so pervasive. That’s why these people are able to generate so much revenue, it’s because people aren’t on guard, says Gonzales.
For this woman, the pain of this terrible situation has left her unable to trust anyone.
For more information from the FBI on how to prevent romance, click here.