Woman Lost $1 Million in an Online Romance Scam
What do you think of as your life savings? Whether it’s a thousand dollars, or a hundred thousand plus, losing money to a scammer is probably not what you have in mind. Meet the woman who many thought would know better since she was a former Intelligence Officer.
Debby Johnson’s Love Scam Story
Despite her job history and career, she lost $1 million to a scammer. Her name was Debbie, and she never thought it would happen to her until it did! This is her cautionary tale, which explains that her scammer even spoke to her via telephone while being a fraudster.
Romance scams can happen to anyone. The victim of this con, Debbie, wasn’t even looking for love. She had lost her beloved partner of many years and thought that an online channel was a healthy way to vent and find emotional support. “Eric Cole” claimed to also be a widow and a father with a young son.
Almost immediately, she liked his writing style. He had a sense of humor and was well-spoken and articulate. Unfortunately, that pleasant demeanor would hide the fact that he was really a scammer whose sole intent was to get her money in his pocket.
The relationship began as a real relationship. They would write text messages to each other, so many that she eventually printed out 4000 pages of their messages. Debbie told herself that she was printing out her family history.
Although she initially lent Eric only $7, she verbalized, by text: “I’m either an extreme fool, or this is going to be a wonderful relationship.” Unfortunately, for her, the answer was the latter.
When they talked on the phone, his British accent checked out with his backstory, and Debbie was sure she’d found her long term partner in crime. Meanwhile, crime was the only thing on her scammer’s mind.
He began to lead her on. They made plans to meet in London on Christmas Day, but four days before then, he claimed a transaction of his had hit a snag, and he couldn’t meet.
For two years, she began to sell jewelry and use retirement accounts to fund Eric’s financial needs. He said these were for his business, and she didn’t want to let him down. She now considered him a member of her family. She even borrowed money from her parents, to help him – an immense regret of hers now.
He would explain away his loans as part of having a business and waiting for payment or the job to be completed before he was paid. A fellow business person, she tried to be understanding.
Finally, one day two years in and over a million dollars later, “Eric” asked her about forgiveness. He told her that he’d done something and wanted to know her belief about forgiveness before he told her, then he did. “It has all been a scam” was the gist of what she was told. She couldn’t believe this might be the case until he showed his face through online video chat, and she saw what he looked like.
He was a smiling, young brown-haired/brown-eyed man named Joseph. He told her he’d fallen in love with her. Unsure if this was part of his con, she hoped her kindness had rubbed off on him. However, she was now out of money and immediately felt disconnected from the love story she’d had with the imaginary Eric.
Although she went to the FBI with all of her financial records, they said there was nothing they could do if the fraudster weren’t in the United States. She initially wanted to hide the con, as it made her feel vulnerable, and she’d received no legal support. However, Debbie now knows there is empowerment in speaking up and that enough people doing so might equal real change.
Do you know anyone who has lost a significant amount of money to a scammer? Did they try and report the crime or receive any assistance in getting their money back? The best way to stop scammers is before you lose the money. Spread awareness to friends and family that they can search people on Social Catfish by name, email, phone number, username, and photo.
Scammers typically steal their fake profile pictures from real people off the internet, so a photo search can be the perfect tool to unmask a con before you lose, 1, 5, or a million dollars! Together, we can stop and prevent scams.