Millions of Americans visit online dating websites every year, hoping to find a companion or even a soul mate.But today, on Valentine’s Day, we want to warn you that criminals use these sites, too, looking to turn the lonely and vulnerable into fast money through a variety of scams.After four months of courtship including emails and phone calls, but never meeting in person, the man who claimed to be a contractor from Virginia was suddenly stuck somewhere in Africa and in serious trouble. "I was really worried about him, I thought the man was going to die."The money started to add up and before Janet realized she was being swindled the 76-year-old widow was out roughly 0,000."These are people who have worked so hard for their savings and now they are giving it all away to the romance scammers," Barbara Hannah Gufferman with the AARP explained."According to the story, he became very ill and he was in the hospital. Her organization is now warning members that seniors are a prime target for online dating scams."The studies show that as you get older, your ability to decipher deceit declines," Gufferman noted.
"I'm not stupid, but I was totally naïve," says Cook, now 76, who was swept off her feet by a man who called himself Kelvin Wells and described himself as a middle-aged German businessman looking for someone "confident" and "outspoken" to travel with him to places like Italy, his "dream destination." But very soon he began describing various troubles, including being hospitalized in Ghana, where he had gone on business, and asked Cook to bail him out.
The victim noticed the suspect reaching over the wall with a cellphone taking pictures and confronted her, prompting the suspect to flee the store on foot.
According to a Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office news release, “Detectives were able to review witness information and security footage from Target that led them to come in contact with 43-year-old Sean Patrick Smith, who also identifies as Shauna Patricia Smith, a transgender female.” Detectives are investigating the case to determine if any more victims exist relating to this incident, the release said.
If an email from "a potential suitor seems suspicious, cut and paste it into Google and see if the words pop up on any romance scam sites," the network advised.
The website lists red flags to look for to identify such predators, who urgently appeal to victims for money to cover financial setbacks like unexpected fines, money lost to robbery or unpaid wages.