Woman Sends $1.4 Million to 'Online Lover' Jun 2, 2015 23:58:50 GMT -5
Post by Graveyardbride on Jun 2, 2015 23:58:50 GMT -5
Woman Sends $1.4 Million to ‘Online Lover’
“I Believe My Cousin is Squandering Her Inheritance on a Love Scam” is the title of a recent Dr. Phil episode in which Sarah (above), a 46-year-old twice-divorced woman, sent in excess of $1.4 million to an online "lover" she had never met. Crystal, Sarah's cousin, contacted the show because she was convinced Sarah was giving away the fortune she inherited from her parents.
Sarah, plain and overweight, joined an online dating service and a handsome man calling himself "Chris Olsen" responded to her ad. One of the first things he said to her was: “Wow, you look like you wouldn’t hurt a fly.” Sarah said she couldn’t believe this “really handsome guy” was talking to her. The two immediately began emailing, texting and calling each other. According to Sarah, at times, she and Chris would talk on the phone for hours. Chris said he was born in Milan, Italy, but had lived in the United States for 18 years. His wife was killed in an automobile accident and he had two daughters looked after by a nanny named "Wanda." It wasn't long before Chris had to travel to South Africa to sell his father's property and purchase gemstones for his grandmother and send them to the United States.
When he got to South Africa, he contacted Sarah and explained he was unable to have the money from the sale of the house transferred from the bank in South Africa to the US and was advised to travel to Nigeria because the banks there were "bigger" and more modern. In Nigeria, the money he was carrying – presumably cash – was stolen and he was subsequently arrested for money-laundering. His credit card had also been stolen and he told Sarah he needed money to pay the authorities, his lawyer, hotel bills and for general living expenses. Sarah sent it. Then he ended up in Benin (the country to the west of Nigeria), where something similar happened and he needed more money. Sarah sent it. He also needed money to pay Wanda, the nanny, and again, Sarah wired the money. When she had depleted her liquid assets and Chris once again needed a half-million dollars to get out of jail, Sarah sold an apartment she owned and wired the $500,000 she received from the sale to Chris. She had sent so much money to Africa that the local Western Union office cut her off, so she persuaded friends and relatives in other states to wire the money for her. Within a 17-month period, Sarah sent in excess of $1.4 million to Chris Olsen. However, she kept all her receipts because Chris assured her he would repay the money once he returned to the United States.
Sarah told Dr. Phil that Chris had made “five or six” attempts to leave Africa, but each time, he was thrown in jail again. On another occasion, he came down with Yellow Fever and was unable to travel. However, she admitted her phantom lover’s accent changed while he was in Africa. “When I first started talking to him, he sounded Italian, now, his accent’s kind of changed. I don’t know if he’s adapted to where he’s at ... Benin.”
Dr. Phil was incredulous as Sarah defended her actions: “I have questioned several times whether or not this is a scam. But I’m 95 percent certain that Chris is telling the truth. ... I still believe in love."
Dr. Phil hired investigators who discovered the handsome man whose photo Chris Olsen had posted on the dating website was that of another man. He also tracked down “Wanda,” the alleged nanny, and she had never heard of Chris Olsen, nor had she ever worked as a nanny. Officials in both Nigeria and Benin appeared on the show via video and denied anyone named Chris Olsen had been jailed or charged with money laundering in either country and that his tales of woe were nothing more than lies to extract money from her.
Dr. Phil confronted Sarah with Chris Olsen’s list of lies:
1. Chris’s wife was killed in a car accident in Italy;
2. His girlfriend cheated on him and stole all of his property;
3. He had a home in Kansas but it was destroyed in a tornado;
4. He traveled to Africa to buy gems for his grandmother’s company and send them back to the United States;
5. He contracted yellow fever;
6. He is currently living with his attorney and can’t leave the country until his taxes are paid (not a real law, Dr. Phil and his crew checked); and
7. He sold his father’s property – worth $1 million – but couldn’t wire it to the States. Part of it was stolen by the security guy who was helping him send the money.
Sarah’s daughter is getting married in a few months and Sarah is struggling to pay for the wedding. She has become so desperate, she has even borrowed money from loan sharks and there’s a possibility she will lose her magnificent 7,000-plus square-foot home and everything else she has – all because she was looking for love in the wrong place and fell for the line of a con man.
Special Agent Darrell Foxworth, Public Affairs Coordinator for the FBI, also appeared on the show to talk about the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. He said anyone who has been a victim of such a crime should go to the site ic3.gov and report the matter.
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Think you've found your Romeo or Juliet online? The National Consumers League warns both men and women to be on the lookout for predators posing as the perfect sweetheart. These romance scams can be a long, drawn-out process and sometimes it takes a while to kindle a relationship in which the “mark” might actually consider sending cash. There are countless victims of such predators who learn the hard way that being unlucky in love is the least of their worries.
After being single for many years, 51-year-old “Dan” befriended a woman on a dating website who claimed to be an artist in Lagos, Nigeria. The two developed a “spiritual connection” and became “virtually” involved. The woman told Dan she longed to travel to California to be with him and requested $2,500, which Dan happily sent. Shortly thereafter, he was contacted by a man claiming to be the woman’s doctor, who advised him his lady love had been involved in a terrible accident and was in a coma. Dan never heard from her again. He was one of the lucky ones.
It is sad there are people so desperate for love they are taken in by such schemes, but it happens all the time. In Dan’s case, there’s a melodramatic twist at the end “explaining” his swindler’s disappearance. Often the incidents reported to fraud.org include drama: an accident, a tragedy, some sudden need for monetary assistance. And, inevitably, love triumphs over caution and a soon-to-be-heartbroken consumer victim sends the money via wire transfer.
Though the details of the scammers’ stories vary from case-to-case, the gist is almost always the same: some tragedy has befallen the scammer and he or she desperately needs money. After communicating and establishing a relationship with the victim, the scammer will ask for help. A woman named “Lisa” reported meeting a man on a major online dating site and they communicated for approximately a month before he told Lisa his daughter needed heart surgery. Over the course of several months, she sent the man a total of $1,000 (a trifling amount compared to some). After she refused to send any more money, the man lost interest and their relationship ended.
In another report, a woman named “Pam” said a man she met online asked for $150 to pay for emergency room treatment after being hit by a car. He even provided a copy of a document he claimed was a receipt for medical treatment and asked for an additional $760 to help pay for a ticket to the United States so they could be together. Pam was in love and sent the money. She waited, but he never showed up. In her report, she said he still contacts her from time-to-time requesting more money.
There have been such scams reported on all the major dating services and the victims are of various backgrounds and socioeconomic levels and include men, women, young, old, black, white, Hispanic, gay, straight, etc. The National Consumers League advises people who join dating services to never, ever send funds for any reason and if they do, be prepared to kiss their money goodbye because they will never see it again. They won’t ever see their virtual lover either.
Sources: Dr. Phil, Jezebel, The Daily Mail, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Consumers League.