A woman in Charlotte, NC was simply looking for love and turned to online dating to find it. However, instead of getting her happily ever after, she ended up being scammed out of thousands of dollars, and it's a hard-hitting lesson for everyone.
The woman, who asked to be called "Jan" to keep her identity a secret, met "Tony Leslie Park" on dating website Plenty of Fish, and the two quickly hit it off. Tony said that he lived in Charlotte, but claimed that he was out of the country on business for a while. To keep Jan's interest, he would often send selfies or lyrics to popular love songs and talked about marriage. He even gave Jan the password to his "checking account" with supposedly $700,000 inside, all in an attempt to gain Jan's trust. So Jan, as many others in love do, fell for Tony, and would do anything for him. But, all the while, Tony had another plan in mind.
After gaining Jan's trust, Tony soon said that his business bank account had been frozen because of the activity from Jan's own computer and IP address. He needed money from her to pay for "business invoices" until the account could be unfrozen, something that typically many would not do. However, Jan soon tapped into her retirement savings, shelling out a total of $56,345 to help Tony out. Tony promised that he would repay her once he got back to Charlotte, going as far as to email her some fake flight information, and sending a picture of him supposedly boarding. Jan rode to the airport and waited for hours, but Tony never showed up. She texted him repeatedly but soon realized that she had been majorly deceived by the man she loved. Jan went on to file reports with both the police and the FBI, but the case isn't active, leaving Jan out of tens of thousands of dollars she'd worked her life to save. And this story is something that's affecting people all over the nation.
To the FBI, this "Sweetheart Scam" is nothing new. Statistics from the bureau show that women ages 50 and older are the biggest victims of online romance scams. After meeting women on sites like Plenty of Fish or Match.com, scammers make their victims fall in love and them convince them to hand over money for some kind of business affair or dire situation. The scam happens with both women and men on a daily basis, and is something that can easily affect you if you are not careful. However, there are definitely ways to keep your bank account and personal information safe.
The first thing you can do to safeguard yourself against online scams like this is to never give your money to someone you don't know personally. Conduct a Google search with the person’s photo and profile if the information has been used before or belongs to someone else entirely. Run a background check, and inquire with the Better Business Bureau if the person claims to have a company. You also can install a computer security or antivirus program to better recognize and block scammers or hackers in the first place.