A woman in Canada lost over C$250,000 ($189,000) to a man she met on a dating site.
Evelyn Wichmann spent months communicating with a man she thought was in love with her. They contacted each other through phone and messages, CBC reported.
Now she is in so much debt that she plans on selling her home.
“He played on my heart,” she told CBC. “I can’t sleep. It’s just terrible.”
The man told Wichmann various reasons he needed money from her. He said he was a civil engineer and was going to Turkey for a project. He told Wichmann he needed money for travel bills, business shipping fees, and a translator, CBC reported.
Later he said he was in a Turkish prison and needed money to cover a $300,000 Canadian tax bill for his construction project, and that would set him free, CBC reported.
He also asked for bail money, lawyer fees, and a flight to Edmonton so they could meet face-to-face. Wichmann sold her car so she could pay his way.
He promised he would pay Wichmann back double later on. He never showed up at the airport.
“I usually have a gut feeling,” Wichmann told CBC. “He sucked me right in.”
To financially please the man, Wichmann maxed out two credit cards and three lines of credit. Her bank accounts are in overdraft and have been suspended.
The man’s dating profile said he lived in Calgary, but he told Wichmann he was from the United States and that he would settle down with her in California.
Wichmann fell for the scheme because she saw a handsome 56-year-old man online. Wichmann is 62, a receptionist, and said she was feeling lonely. Her husband died of cancer three years prior, CBC reported.
Since her husband’s death, Wichmann suffered both a heart attack and a stroke.
Deeper Romance Scam Trouble
“This has really shown us that this can happen to anyone,” a woman only identified as Sarah told KOCO.
She said the scam started with a friend request on Facebook from someone her mother didn’t know and grew from there.
“Unfortunately, she accepted that friend request,” Sarah said. “Well, he’s won her over, without a doubt.”
Her mother’s online chat conversations moved up to text messages and phone calls. The man worked to gain the 75-year-old woman’s trust over a 12-month period.
“He is gaining her trust over ours,” Sarah said. “It’s very hard, as a family, that someone you love so much that is such an integral part of our family is slipping away from us, so to speak.”
Sarah described how the scammer worked on her mother.
“Starts out little. ‘Can you go to Walmart and purchase a gift card for me for this reason?’ Kind of a test,” Sarah said.
“There’s been a lot of affection, compliments. Lots of compliments,” Sarah told KOCO. “He’s saying, ‘You’re beautiful’ and ‘You have a beautiful soul.'”
The mother’s husband died of cancer over a decade ago. Sarah said the false romance is part of a growing trend in scams. Fortunately, in Sarah’s case, her mother’s bank stopped a funds transfer to the scammer.
“Once you fall for one of these scams, you get added to a list called a ‘suckers list,’ and then those teams of scammers sell those lists to other teams,” Sarah told KOCO.
The problem Sarah is facing is that her mother still doesn’t believe she is caught in a scam.
“We’ve felt so alone. It’s maddening, frustrating, to think someone you love and care so much about could be taken advantage of,” Sarah told KOCO.