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Security & privacy

Widower conned out of his $200K life savings with this crazy online scam

The internet has completely changed the way we live our lives.

Online shopping and banking are just a couple of examples of how the internet impacts us daily. The key is staying protected. Tap or click here for 4 essential steps to safer online banking and shopping.

But it’s not just new clothes people search for online. Millions have turned to the internet to find their soulmates, too. There are also dangers in online dating to watch out for. In fact, you won’t believe how this widower was conned out of his entire life savings.

Dream woman turns into a nightmare

If you’re old enough to remember a time before smartphones, you know how difficult it was to work up the courage to approach a stranger and strike up a conversation. The days of, “May I have this dance, ma’am?” are long gone.

Now, you just download an app, create a profile and start swiping right whenever someone catches your eye. But that’s the problem: Anyone can create a profile and they aren’t all 100% truthful.

RELATED: Deceptive new trend is taking over online dating apps

Sometimes the lies are worse than someone shaving a few years off their age. Tons of fake profiles are out there with the intention of “catfishing.” This is when someone creates a fake profile to target potential victims with plans to rip them off.

That’s exactly what happened recently to an 80-year-old widower from Oregon. Get this: The man was scammed out of more than $200,000.

The victim connected with a woman on a dating site, and she claimed to be living in Florida. The problem is the profile was completely fake. The scammer stole someone else’s identity and used their personal information to create an online dating account.

The imposter posed as a woman from Jacksonville and actually convinced the victim they were in a long-distance relationship. This went on for over a year.

During that time, the scammer told the man she was working on a business deal. She claimed to be trying to have a 500-ton marble lion sculpture shipped from China to the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York, and needed investors to help complete the project.

It was going to take a total of $5 million to have the sculpture shipped and anyone who invested would get their money back along with a “hefty profit.” Thinking he was in love, the man handed over his entire life savings.

Naturally, once the scammer got the money, “she” disappeared never to be heard from again. Making matters worse is the fact that the victim sent the $200K in a series of payments to overseas bank accounts, which is making it nearly impossible for officials to track down the fraudsters.

You may also like: Watch out for fast-spreading tax scams

Without a little luck, the poor man will likely never get any of his savings back. Sadly, this happens more often than you’d think. People are always falling for fake dating profiles and have lapses in judgment, just like he did.

How to avoid falling for online dating scams

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says romance scams like the one in this story rank number one on total reported losses. Its Consumer Sentinel Network received more than 21,000 reports of romance scams in 2018, with people reporting a total loss of $143 million. Yikes!

To help people avoid getting caught up in one of these romance scams, the FTC offers the following tips:

  • Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person.
  • Talk to someone you trust about this new love interest. In the excitement about what feels like a new relationship, we can be blinded to things that don’t add up. Pay attention if your friends or family are concerned.
  • Take it slowly. Ask questions and look for inconsistent answers. Try a reverse-image search of the profile pictures. If they’re associated with another name, or with details that don’t match up, it’s a scam.

With Valentines Day this weekend, love will be in the air and tons of people will be looking to meet that special someone. Keep these FTC suggestions in mind if you are ready to hit the online dating scene.

Also, if you think you’ve found a fake profile, report it to the FTC. You can also help stop scammers by reporting suspicious profiles or messages to the dating or social media site.

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