Sweetheart Swindle Romance
An insidious and heartless crime is perpetrated when a lothario-style
con artist worms his way into the heart of a victim using romance
as the hook rather than financial gain. These robbing Romeos
scour church groups, social clubs and any other venue where financially
well-off widows congregate.
Some are just gigolos after gifts, support and the obligatory
nookie, while others have a well- rehearsed plan to deplete the
victim's financial reserves.
They do this by a convincing ritual of courting the emotions of
someone who, perhaps not aware of their need for love, has not
had such flattering attention since their own heady youth. Everyone
wants to be loved, and their egos are naturally inflated when a
younger, attractive man shows a gentlemanly interest. Their
friends become jealous and this only stokes the fire of romance.
Whatever forces create the aura of romance, these guys exude it. Imagine
though, you have lost your husband of many years and, even though
he wasn't a saint, his passing created a void in your life. You
are alone. Years have passed since his death and you are
starting to become more independent. You don't rely on your
grown children for advice as much as when you were first bereaved. In
fact, you started to secretly resent their treating you like a
child, as well-meaning and considerate as they might have been.
You get chocolates and flowers and invites for romantic candlelit
dinners. You are torn between guilt and hope. You can't
really believe that someone could still fall for you, wrinkles
and all. People forget that our internal emotions do not
change even though our bodies wear down. We thankfully subdue
some of them out of practicality and decreasing hormonal levels,
otherwise teenagers wouldn't be the only ones making out at the
mall. But love, and the need to feel loved is timeless and
Hooked on this new drug, and still insecure, you find yourself
subconsciously wishing to hold on to this arrangement by whatever
means possible. Bedroom antics may play a part or not. It
is the emotional dependence that is important for the cons to establish
with you. This is easy when a relationship is actually one-sided
though appearing otherwise. They have nothing to lose so
naturally they are the dominant force.
You buy them gifts to compensate for your lack of desire for physical
loving. They in turn, continue to act just like the suave
and debonair men you read about in your romance novels, never burping
Your children, feeling a combination of resentment that you are
cheating on their dead father mixed with guilt for depriving you
of happiness, are wary and awkward. They may not openly oppose
such a union but talk amongst themselves about their reservations. They
wish to be protective but it comes off as meddling in something
you feel they could not possibly understand. Their distrust
of your judgment is a personal affront. You become more secretive
and stop discussing your personal actions with them.
They may live at a distance, making intervention difficult. Regardless,
the scammer knows just how to deal with them by breeding mistrust
after attempts to ingratiate himself with the family have failed. It
becomes an us against them battle. After all, he says, they
don't care about your happiness, just their inheritance.
Soon the Casanova con will want to take you out of your rut by
proposing exciting new ventures. You have lost your friends
and family so what could be better than starting a business, owning
horses or investing in some sure-fire winner. You have to,
in fact you want to, show your support and trust for his financial
acumen. Anything to keep them around and that feeling alive.
You sign loan documents on your assets with just your signature,
not his. He doesn't want your money, just your trust. Well,
if you insist, he couldn't insult you by not taking some. Just
a short-term loan mind you, with his verbal guarantee.
How long before both he and your money are gone? No telling. But
they are sure to occur at the same time. Will the family
ever get back together? Barring a suicide we can only hope.
Rather than forcing the victim to return to you and admit their
foolishness simply let them know you understand they are the victim
without rubbing it in with the "I told you so". Imagine
if you went through a marriage and divorce where your spouses only
motive for marrying you was to have children and then run away
with them. Then imagine that your mother warned you about
the no good so and so from day one. How would you feel about
being reminded? It's not like you have forgotten or ever
Get over it so they can as well. So what? The money is gone. Pretend
it never existed at least as far as guilt is concerned.
Your efforts to seek justice are hampered by the victims inability
to act. They are immobilized by shame and lingering disbelief. They
can not physically recount to authorities how they were duped. Every
action they took was seemingly of their own accord. After
all, they signed for a loan and gave monetary gifts. How
do you prove deception or fraud?
About the only way to avoid this crime is to do a background check
of lover-boy before he gets his hooks too deeply into the emotions
of the impending victim. This has to be before he alienates
the family. Red flags should be raised when he is from out
of town, has no actual employment or means of support, is in your
opinion too young or good for you or your parent, lives in a dump
or rents below his attire and attitude, or has no other circle
The cost of a police check is minimal compared to the potential
losses, both emotional and financial.
I should properly note that while the example above paints men
in a bad light, just as many men are defrauded by money-grubbing
female cons. Human nature relating to vulnerabilities or
avarice are not gender specific.
Police on Sweetheart Scams - excellent coverage of how female
gypsies and their accomplices defraud elderly males. - Organized
Crime Unit excerpt below
The concept is quite basic; man falls in love with young gypsy
girl. Gypsy girl obtains as much as she can from the man until
he has no more to give. Then girl flees.
Of course in this case, young doesn't always mean a teenager.
The gypsy woman could be in her 40's to 50's. But to a 90-year-old
man, she is young.
The scam works as follows. First, they profile the victim who
is first targeted by their age. The older they are, the better.
From the late 60's onwards the victims are extremely vulnerable,
easily manipulated or intimidated, and forgetful. They also usually
have easier access to cash through retirement accounts and credit
The gypsy perpetrator knows that elderly men are lonely, having
been widowed for numerous years and often haven't had sexual relationships
in recent memory. The victims' children are usually distant, middle-aged
and often spend very little physical time with them.
Where do the gypsies find the victims? Almost anywhere! However,
local grocery stores, banks, and the biggest target, Casinos are
popular contact points.
Next is the approach. It starts out as simple contact. The gypsy
girl will approach and start a simple conversation during which
she will flirt with and flatter the elderly victim attempting to
find out their name, living arrangements, and marital status. This
is, of course, done by clever conversation and in a way that is
At some point, she will walk him to his car and offer to help
in the future by taking him to the store or cleaning his house.
She will try to exchange telephone numbers at this time. Usually
the old guy is so starved for attention and conversation he will
exchange numbers. The gypsy's husband or family members will then
follow the victim to see where he lives.
The gypsy will then start calling the victim and/or show up at
his house. Even if she wasn't, she will make the victim believe
he might have invited her, deliberately working on the victim's
At some point early on, she will try to reel in the victim through
a sympathetic story referencing lack of finances. Usually idle
comments about not being able to get a job and unable to feed her
children. She might then ask to borrow some money. The elderly
victim usually gives grocery money at this point, either out of
sympathy or feeling pressured.
She continues the sympathy routine, continually escalating the
finances needed. Such as "I'm about to get evicted from my
apartment, what am I to do?" The victim will then rent
an apartment for the gypsy, in his name. She then expresses the
need to have it furnished then takes the elderly victim to a store
and charges thousands of dollars in furniture in his name.
Then of course, comes the story of "I need to get a job so
I can pay you back. But I can't get a job without a car." So,
off they go to a car dealer where he usually walks away purchasing
an extravagant vehicle in the range of $30,000 to $60,000 dollars.
And don't forget the trip to the jewelry store, where he is talked
into purchasing a pair of Rolex watches or a diamond ring.
Once in place, she will introduce her gypsy husband as her brother.
They team up and work on ways to bilk money from the victim. While
she girl works the sweetheart scam, the gypsy man will try and
get the victim to go into partnership on some scheme such as "I'm
a car body-man. With your money and my knowledge of repairing cars,
we can go into business together. You buy the used cars and I'll
repair them, then sell them." If this occurs, the gypsy
will sell the cars the victim buys, but continually lie about the
At some early stage of the sympathy routine, the gypsy will tell
the victim she loves him. She will "expose" herself to
the victim, continually trying to entice him through emotions of
love and sex. Very rarely though will the gypsy girl allow the
victim to kiss or have a sexual relationship, telling him it's
against her religion to allow such a thing unless they are married.
Should this be considered you will soon hear the sad story of "What's
going to happen to me when you die. Who will take care of me?" The
gypsy will attempt to talk the elderly victim into taking out a
large life insurance policy, naming her as beneficiary.
The sweetheart scam will continue until either the money runs
out, the victim dies and/or fear that the police might become involved.
Very rarely will the victim call the police. Usually it's the
victim's family that eventually discovers the scam after numerous
months of operation and reports it against the victim's wishes. When
confronted by police, the victim may or may not remember every
incident in which he's been scammed for money but will generally
remember that the girl promised to pay him back. The victim will
also be reluctant because he's in love, scared, or embarrassed.
If the gypsies believe they are going to get caught, they will
flee and change their identities. If caught, they will offer the
victim "most" of the property back. This of course being
the car they've been driving for the last year, or the furniture.
Any cash or jewelry will be gone.
The gypsies will then tell law enforcement it wasn't their intent
to steal from the victim, they promised to pay everything back
saying "It's not their fault the elderly man was lonely and
had nobody to take him to the store or doctor. Where was his family?" The
gypsies will also justify any items obtained as gifts.
Prosecution is often difficult because the victim is reluctant
to assist, and/or his memory is so poor that he makes a bad witness.
Prosecution will also take into account whether the victim was
a willing participant!
So why is the sweetheart scam so devastating? After all, the old
man is with this young girl in his last days of life! It's his
dream come true. If it makes him happy, so be it!
On the other hand, at some point the gypsies flee with the property
and leave the elderly victims with little or no cash left, unable
to make the monthly payments the credit companies still hold them
responsible for. Victims rarely report the crime and simply live
their remaining life destitute and distraught, with only a meager
A new true crime show called Aphrodite Jones is being produced
by Buena Vista (Disney) and USA network. They are currently
working on a story about con-artists/bigamists and wondering if
there are any cases you know of where a man has taken a lot of
different women or wives for money. (sweetheart scams)
They are interested in profiling the case and using their resources
to catch the man.
Please e-mail Brielle Lebsack
Associate Producer if you can help.
Tired of picking losers? Perhaps one of the major online matchmaking
services is worth trying? There is Match.com, which also has a
service called Chemistry, and Lavalife. As always, be careful and
wary of the Nigerian scammers who want you to deposit checks for
them once they have established your trust after several months.
We feel that my widowed father-in-law was talked into writing
a will naming a lady who lived on the floor above him which gives
her everything he owns including the rental property and a duplex.
He had put her name on his checking/savings account first and
she was found to be electronically transferring money from his
account into her account at the same bank. He would not believe
that this woman would do this to him even with the evidence right
in front of him.
He passed away a month ago and so my husband and his sister filed
the will that states that the daughter is the executor. Well,
this lady is now filing her claim against that. We want his
assets to go to his grandchildren but what can we do? This has
become financially draining because we have to pay a lawyer for
this and do not have a lot of money. Help would be greatly
Janet Ellis 01/29/02
Reply: As I am not a lawyer I must refer you to one, or direct
you to do a search on www.google.com for
the keywords (probate contest) and then (contesting a will). Several
free sources of info will appear which may help.
Fraud through a Sweetheart Scam
From: "Glenda K." Fri, 11
The section on victims hit home. I have been through so very much
of what you described. I am a 48 year old woman with Parkinson
disease. Two years ago my husband of 17 years divorced me saying
he was too young to care for a disabled wife.
A man named Carmen F. studied me, checked my credit, and won my
confidence by saying all the right things. I never lived with him.
He got into my mail, returned credit card offers, changed all the
beneficiaries on my accounts, 401k, medical etc, and bought a truck
in my name. The DA in Araphaho county Colorado refused to prosecute
saying it was my word against his.
I lost almost everything. I was forced to file bankruptcy. This
man has a history of fraud and scams committed on disabled women
and he is still out there free. This took place in 1998 and there
is probably not much that can be done. I felt it important
that others know that he and others who prey on the disabled are
Dear Mrs. K,
It saddens me to hear of your plight yet I am encouraged that
you have the fortitude to speak of your troubles. It is a big part
of the recovery process as a victim. I wish that I could
print your desire to have this con exposed but sadly I leave myself
open to dissemination of libel, however true.
I would however like to post your message in the hopes that it
might trigger a response from someone in the same position before
it is too late for them.
You should, I think, still review my section on credit and identity
fraud to see if any of the credit agencies can be advised, if you
haven't already, just in case he resurfaces in your financial
life, heaven forbid.
For now, take care and thanks for taking the time to write.
I could not believe that you responded much less how quickly you
did so. Thank you. You certainly have my permission.
At the time all this occurred one of the news
stations in Denver wanted to do a story. I now regret I did not--but
I was in no shape at the time to handle it.
A bit more information about the man. There are men who "hang
out" around buildings where they know
the women who work there have good jobs. He was and still
is, I suppose, such a man. I
worked for US West and had a very good job. I thought at first he
worked there too. He was friends with building security and
had free run of what was supposed to be a secure building. His
mentioned his last girlfriend had MS--and he said she died.
I believe he was drugging me. I was also
taking my Parkinson's Disease medications. I have large gaps
in my memory. I tested positive
for Rohypnol "roofies" the date rape drug. The last
time I lost consciousness I was out 3 days.
I called my brother who came from California and moved me to Oklahoma.
I am now on medical retirement unable to work. It has been
a long recovery but I am much better now. When I first arrived
in Oct 98, I had brain damage and was unable to read, do simple
math, and had no short term memory.
I already had Parkinson's but I believe what happened caused the
disease to progress far faster than it would have. I tape recorded
some of our conversations. Had I not done so I feel sure I would
not have been believed. The detectives I worked with were very
kind and understanding and wanted "to get him". If
my story can be of any help to anyone else please print it.
Thank you, Glenda
Dependant on a Sponge Bath
A few years ago my family obtained the name of what we thought
was a reputable health care agency from our local senior citizens
center. After interviewing several candidates, a 34 year
old woman from Georgia ( in the former Soviet Union) was chosen
as a "live-in home health aide" to assist my paralyzed
74 year old father in law.
She said that since she was new to the U.S., she did not have
a social security number yet and requested that her weekly salary
of $520 be paid in cash. As time went on, my father in law
became far too attached to this woman and the family became suspicious.
My father in law insisted that she took very good care of him
and would not let us consider looking for a replacement. We
wanted a social security number so we could report her earnings
but my father in law insisted that he would prefer to keep paying
her in cash.
Quite by accident, our family found out that he and this woman
(who we later found out was an illegal alien and unauthorized to
work in the U.S.) had been secretly married for 17 months after
she convinced him to marry her to avoid deportation.
We immediately contacted INS who waited seven months to investigate
her. By that time, she had successfully passed the "two
year period" for a marriage so the INS ignored all communications
from our family insisting that this was a clear case of marriage
fraud. We were told that once a U.S. citizen signs an affidavit
of support for a foreigner, INS would not waste their time and
manpower to investigate further. She now has a permanent
resident green card and my father in law, who was once considered "well
invested", is now broke.
We discovered she has a history of violence, having been arrested
twice. Both times she resisted arrest and attacked the police
officers. The first offense went to municipal court and was
dismissed with a small fine. The second time, she broke a
police officer's hand and she is currently under indictment by
our county superior court on four different counts. This
happened one year ago and we are still waiting for a court date.
If she is tried and convicted of a felony, she will be deportable. It
is our only hope of removing her from our lives. My father
in law thinks that she takes great care of him. Almost every
weekend she leaves him alone for 36 hours while she "visits" friends
in NYC or has an outing in Atlantic City.
During this time, he is often left in his hospital bed without
food or a drink. He has been totally brainwashed to think
she is the best thing that has ever happened to him and he will
not be able to live without her. His lies and deceit have cost
him three sons and their wives and six grandchildren. His
family will not even visit him as long as this violent woman lives
in his home.
Several months ago I was contacted by a representative at the
U.S. Embassy in Georgia asking me to share my INS contact information
with another family in my area who contacted them with the same
concerns about their elderly father.
A 44 year old illegal alien from Georgia working as a home health
aide had convinced their 78 year old newly widowed father to part
with over $150,000 in cash.
Upon further investigation, we found out that these ladies know
each other. The second woman stayed in my father in law's
home as a guest of his "wife" for two weeks upon her
arrival in the U.S. Both families are having a difficult
time trying to convince our fathers that these women are here only
for financial benefit, permanent residency and a green card. Although
I have written numerous letters to government officials, no one
seems to care about the issue of marriage fraud.
Has anyone written about the influx of illegal aliens who come
to the U.S. on visitors' visas, go underground, then surface working
as home health aides for unlicensed home health care agencies. If
this happened to our families, it must have happened to others.
Afraid of the Russian Mob Connection 10/06/02
Have been paging thru your site and I believe I may be on to a
different kind of scam from Nigeria. I believe a young man
from Nigeria is running a money scam on a very large popular black
website. He contacts women, gets their personal info, bombards
them with attention and long distance phone calls which helps validate
that he is in "love" and even states he has applied for
Then after months of gaining their confidence he asks for money.
What makes this a scam and not your average bad guy is the depth
that he goes to. He runs this with more than one woman at
a time, speaks with family members, the whole nine yards.
It was a fluke that I found out that I, as well as other young
ladies, were victims. I have info that he gave us and would like
to verify if the company he said he worked for exists.
I do not know if he is in this alone. He makes large volumes of
phone calls and if he is doing this with numerous women simultaneously. It
must be costly or he has some kind of "hook up" going
on. Please help or point me in right direction. I would like to
see him stopped and see that no other unknowing lady gets hurt
and loses money.
M Mosley 08/21/02
I Promise To Love Your Credit
I was 49 when I married my husband, who I met through the INTERNET. It
was my first marriage, his third and I have reason to believe
that the entire marriage was both a sham and a scam. Before
we got married he asked me to take loans for him in my name for
a substantial amount, though most of the loans are listed in our
We were only together 15 months, Oct 8 2000 to Jan 22, 2002 after
which he blackmailed and extorted money from me until May then
he was convicted of harassment July 02. We still aren't divorced.
He has only paid back $1,800 of over $40,000 in debts and has
told me I only got that to make sure I continued with the divorce
and that he never intended to pay me back. I have been paying
off his loans since May 02 and he just leased a 2002 Cadillac Escalade
for $699.00 a month.
I have notified all three credit bureaus to put fraud alerts
on all of my credit cards and I have notified my mutual fund companies
not to accept telephone transactions. Even I can't call and
have to have my signature guaranteed. But that's fine. I
would rather be very safe than any sorrier.
I would like to say that I have moved on. I know I will
get a Judgment. Getting the money will be a whole other
problem unless I can persuade the judge to do a wage garnishment.
I sent for certified copies of his first divorce which showed
he was held in contempt of court 3 years in a row for non payment
of child support and alimony. The FL court did an income
deduction order however, he was self employed at the time so I
am sure his ex wife and children did not see any support.
Except for the harassment conviction, I can't get anyone to take
me seriously. He is a con man and I am concerned he is going
to just move on and do what he did to me to someone else. After
all, why should he stop? Look how successful he was with
I have been in contact with my local prosecutor and he tells me that
his office prosecutes 10,000 cases a year and mine would never even
get past the grand jury because I married the guy.
I don't understand. It's almost like spousal abuse. Years
ago a wife couldn't get protection because she was married to the
abuser. Why don't the courts recognize the monetary aspect as well? Just
because my husband didn't leave any bruises doesn't mean that I
haven't been abused and financially saddled. If you have
any suggestions please send them.
Kathleen R. 10/05/02
Editors Note: I can find very little information
on this topic. All non-lethal suggestions welcome.
I'm Staying, You're Going
I would like to address an issue regarding illegal alien women
marrying citizens of the US.
My friend is divorced from a woman who has made his life a torment. He
said that she was very nice in the beginning but afterwards, all hell
broke loose. She would curse and provoke arguments to an extent
where it got physical. Then she began to disappear for hours at
a time, leaving him to take care of their infant son.
He found out that she was having an affair with a man in the next
apartment building, got angry and uncharacteristically threatened
to kill her and the man. She went running to the police, and had
him evicted from his apartment.
Then she based her divorce on a temporary protection order, and
was granted emergency support from it.
My warning to anyone contemplating on marrying an illegal is to
first get all the facts, because marrying someone who is not a
citizen is an even bigger responsibility. You will be subject not
only to state laws, but international ones as well.
Always consider that some people will do anything to keep from
being deported and all it takes is someone getting access to your
social security card to cause identity theft. I also think
that the US has a very loose security system as far as illegals
P. Whitley 06/10/03
Conman gets 10 years for wire fraud in
04/07 - (NJ) - Patrick Giblin, 42, found his victims in membership
lists of online dating services, focusing on women who were near
despair because of family tragedies.
There were no state boundaries to his interest in them.
He made promises of marriage and lifelong companionship.
All they had to do was send him money. Sometimes as little as
$450; once as much as $50,000.
In every case, according to Giblin's admission when pleading guilty
almost a year ago to 10 federal wire fraud charges, he used the
cash to fuel a gambling addiction.
It wasn't high stakes wages, but the slot machines at Caesar's
that Giblin said ruined his life, estranged him from his family
and forced him to beg for money.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler sentenced Giblin,
a former Atlantic City resident, to 115 months in federal prison
and ordered him to make $182,442 in restitution to 25 victims.
When Giblin told Kugler he needed a program to help fight an addiction
that began when he was 19, Kugler offered a better alternative.
"You need to stop stealing," the judge said.
"I don't care if you burn it or throw it down a hole, you
have no sense of shame, no sense of remorse," he said.
"I need in-patient treatment," Giblin said, interrupting
"You're a crook," Kugler responded.
"I can't mend the broken hearts of the victims or restore
their self-esteem. If you were working an honest job and throwing
your money away at the casino, no one would care. But you're stealing," Kugler
He ordered that Giblin remain on parole for three years after
he completes his sentence. During that time, he will be barred
from gambling and must register for self-exclusion lists maintained
by casinos to provide support for gambling addicts.
Two of Giblin's victims, one from Texas, the other from North
Carolina, spoke at the sentencing of being promised by Giblin he
would relocate to their areas, sometimes with a job in law enforcement,
and was interested in marriage. Neither of the women ever met Giblin,
but both eventually turned over their savings to him when he called
with stories of broken-down cars, blown-out tires and traffic tickets
-- all of which could be paid off and clear the way for him to
proceed to the victim's hometowns.
Sandra Bikhit, who works for Global Cash Access, which provides
Western Union Services within 15 feet of the casino floor at Caesar's
in Atlantic City, told Kugler that Giblin used her office to receive "dozens
and dozens and dozens" of wire transfers of thousands of dollars.
On one day, he received three wire transfers of cash from different
women, she said.
"He was my most regular customer," she said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Chillemi said Giblin probably stole
up to $400,000 from as many as 100 victims and said there was no
way for the government to track down any money that was transferred
to him under different names.
Man admits swindling women he met on date lines
05/06 - NJ- An Atlantic City gambler admitted in federal court
Friday that he found a way to separate lonely women from their
cash. With the aid of two telephone dating services, Patrick Giblin,
42, first charmed them and then fleeced them.
Pleading guilty to 10 counts of wire fraud, Giblin admitted he
had taken between $200,000 and $400,000 from 10 women in eight
states. None of the victims live in New Jersey.
More than a half-dozen victims were booked on flights to testify
at Giblin's trial, which was to begin Monday before U.S. District
Judge Robert Kugler.
Some of those women will attend Giblin's Aug. 18 sentencing, said
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Skahill.
Under a plea agreement, Giblin faces a potential sentence of up
to 20 years on each count and millions of dollars in fines. Giblin
has been detained since he was arrested March 3, 2005, by FBI agents
at a gaming table at Caesars Atlantic City.
Prosecutors said Giblin used Quest and Lava Life, two dating services
for singles. Although both companies also use Internet hook-ups,
Giblin used the telephone.
In his scheme, Giblin established rapport with his victims through
repeated telephone calls and said he wanted to pursue a romantic
relationship with them. He next said he planned to relocate to
the area of his victim, but would run into unexpected cash flow
problems and would ask for a loan, directing the woman to send
him the money to a Western Union office in Atlantic City.
According to an indictment, Giblin often became antagonistic with
the women when they refused to extend a second loan.
Some of them were threatened, according to the investigation.
Giblin refused to provide his telephone number to the victims,
calling them from blocked numbers or public phones.
The federal investigation showed there may have been as many as
50 victims of the scheme.
Giblin used the proceeds for gambling in Atlantic City and Las
Vegas, said federal prosecutors.
Sexy Sweetheart Scammers Steal Seniors Savings
CA - 03/08 - There have been several cases where senior citizens
are being robbed of thousands of dollars in Sacramento.
Police say, 34 year - old Ruby Miller followed a 90 year - old
man home, claiming he had dropped a dollar bill.
That dollar cost the man thousands. The man says Miller gained
his trust and quickly moved into his home. She took over the man's
finances and transferred over 50- thousand dollars in equity in
his home to her husband's account, liquidated 150- thousand in
certificates of deposit and sold his home for over 200- thousand
dollars. After Miller left, the man was forced into a care home.
Ruby Miller and her husband Nicky Marks were arrested in Sun Valley
in January. They're in a Washoe County detention facility as fugitives
Ruby Miller and her husband aren't the only ones accused of pulling
Miller's sister in law, Linda Navarro, allegedly befriended two
seniors in Sacramento as well, stealing 100-thousand dollars.
Washoe County detectives are urging residents around the Truckee
Meadows to talk with older relatives and remind them to be careful.
Online ‘Romance Scam’ victim speaks out on her experience
AZ - 08/07 - A disturbing new trend in Internet scams is emerging,
and seniors are the target.
Seniors looking for love on Internet dating sites with reputable
names such as “The Christian Cafe” are finding themselves
the victims of an international plot to be scammed out of thousands
of dollars. There are all kinds of Web scams out there, but none
leave their victim feeling more violated than the Romance Scam.
The premise is deceptively simple. Men and women who typically
work out of Nigeria or Russia (but claim to be living in America)
develop relationships with Americans they meet on Internet dating
sites. They send e-mails filled with romantic poetry and promises
of their undying devotion, in hopes that this would assure a cash
advance to pay for a fake hotel or plane bill. The victim believes
that the relationship is sincere, but ends up with broken dreams
and an empty pocket book.
The emotional betrayal may be worse than the lost money.
“This is going to make me think twice about trusting people,” said
Vickie Forbes, 49, who almost became the victim of a romance scam
in July. Forbes, who lives in Tucson and works in Green Valley,
is speaking out to help others recognize the warning signs.
“Up until he began asking about the money, we had normal
conversations,” she said, feeling comfortable enough with
the man she met on ChristianCafe.com to begin talking with him
on the phone. “He seemed like a genuinely nice person, and
he kept in constant contact with me. He called me when he got up
in the morning, he wanted me to call him when I got up and when
I got back from work.”
In hindsight, she says she should have been wary of the over-the-top
romantic language in the e-mails, “but at the time, I was just
flattered.” Photos of her suitor showed him to be an attractive
45-50-year-old man from Italy who had moved to New York, photos she now
believes were stolen from an online modeling company.
Inconsistencies in his story had been bothering her, but the red
flag began to wave when he asked her to forward $4,500 to pay for
a plane ticket one month after they started talking.
In her search for answers, Forbes came across Romancescams.org,
a Web site that has gained national recognition on shows such as “Oprah” and “Maury
Povich,” started by a woman who was a victim herself. Through
the site, Forbes learned how to trace the IP addresses of the e-mails
she’d been receiving. She was shocked to discover that the
emails were coming from a computer in Nigeria.
“I was in denial at first” she said. “I never
thought something like this could happen to me.”
In April, the U.S. State Department issued an official warning
to users of Internet dating services because of the recent resurgence
of this particular scam. Romancescams.com says it has more than
7,500 members who have been victimized, with a reported collective
loss of more than $3 billion dollars. There’s even an active
Yahoo users group dedicated to the subject and several online support
groups for victims. The Web site, which has a huge database of “personal
scam stories,” user discussion boards, and profile photos
being used by known scammers, reports that seniors are especially
sought out because they are believed to be more vulnerable than
younger internet users.
Though most scammers target Americans, recent Associated Press
reports reveal that romance scams are becoming a global problem.
Earlier this month, a 56-year-old Australian farmer found himself
in extreme danger after flying to Mali to meet the woman he had
been talking to through a dating Web site. The “woman” turned
out to be a gang of armed bandits who held him hostage for 12 days,
beating him and threatening to “hack off his limbs with a
machete” if he didn’t pay a $100,000 ransom.
Even though Forbes stopped all contact with her scammer and never
sent the money, she says she still feels betrayed.
If you decide to pursue Internet dating, she says, make sure to
do it locally so you can meet the person face-to-face. “My
advice is to just be careful, and be aware that people like this
are out there.”
You can report online fraud of any kind at the FBI's Internet
Crime Complaint Center
Green Valley News
Info on Divorcing a Deadbeat
Info on cheating spouses and lovers.
Romance Scams Information