A lonely Illinois woman named Kathy was scammed out of $92,000 from her life savings by a man she met on a 50+ dating site – an increasingly common story after many turned to dating websites to fight isolation during the COVID pandemic.
Kathy, who did not want to share her full name, only realized what the man she called ‘Hubby’ was up to after watching the Netflix show ‘The Tinder Swindler’, which was released in February.
The scam cost Kathy Thousands, has forced her to delay her retirement to pay off debts, and left her estranged from her children.
Lonely after two years of pandemic isolation starting in 2019, Kathy, of Aurora, decided she no longer wanted to be single. ‘If something like this happened, you know, again, I don’t want to be alone. You know, I want somebody here,’ she told ABC Chicago in a story Friday.
Illinois woman, Kathy, was lonely after the pandemic and joined the dating website SilverSingles, where a conman tricked her out of her life savings of over $92,000
SilverSingles is a dating website for single people fifty-years and older. In a statement they urged users to cease communications with and report any profiles that ask you for money
She decided to sign up for SilverSingles, a dating website for people over the age of 50, and met a man she described as a ‘handsome older gentleman’ who she fell madly in love with.
‘I thought I was in love because every time I would hear from him, my heart would just burst open. And it was interesting, exciting,’ Kathy said. ‘And after every phone call before we hung up, we took turns praying.’
The handsome older gentleman wooed Kathy at first by phone and by text, calling her ‘wifey,’ saying things like ‘I love you more than you can ever imagine,’ and riddling texts with heart emojis.
Texts show Kathy and ‘Hubby’ calling each other life partners, soulmates and the loves of each other’s lives.
The conman showered Kathy with effusion and emojis, calling her ‘wifey’ and ‘my love.’ Kathy called the conman ‘hubby’
When Kathy asked to meet the man in person, he told her he needed to leave suddenly for work in Toronto. A few weeks later he began asking her $5,000 to pay for work permits
‘This is a match made in heaven and you are my soulmate,’ a text shows the man saying.
But texts and calls were the extent of their contact. When Kathy tried to make plans to meet in person, the man said that he had to leave suddenly for work in Toronto.
A few weeks later, he began asking her for money.
The scammer told Kathy he had gotten into an accident, and needed money to pay for surgery. He sent her this photo, which is blurred here because scammers often pull photos from the internet to serve as the face of their false identity
‘He said I need these permits to work here and I need $5,000 for this permit. And they won’t take a check or anything. So I’m thinking, “well, yeah, I want to help this man”. You know, I’m falling in love with him. Why wouldn’t I want to help them?’
After Kathy sent the first $5,000, the man claimed he had gotten into an accident and needed money for surgery.
He even sent a photo of himself in a hospital bed, though it is unlikely any of the photos she saw were actually of Hubby, as scammers often pull photos from the internet to serve as the face of their identity.
From there, the man’s misfortunes continued to add up, and Kathy’s cash consistently seemed to be the only way out.
After the accident and surgery the man’s misfortunes multiplied, and Kathy’s cash always was the only remedy
Providing the money made sense to Kathy, ‘I’m thinking, well, yeah, I want to help this man. You know, I’m falling in love with him. Why wouldn’t I want to help them?’ she said
‘We started talking about where we could get that money. And he kept offering suggestions, you know, so I ended up doing a refinance and taking out money against my house,’ she said.
The man sent her a screenshot of his bank account – showing over half a million dollars in a checking account – and promised to pay her back once he had access to his funds.
She refinanced her house and took out loans, and sent all the money to her lover.
Then one night – at a friend’s recommendation – she watched the Netflix documentary ‘The Tinder Swindler,’ a documentary about several women who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to a dating app conman.
Kathy refinanced her house and took out loans to come up with money for Hubby. She ultimately gave the scammer over $92,000
Kathy was kicked out of her bank because they suspected her of laundering money. She has delayed her retirement to pay off the debts she accumulated during the con
‘I’m going, ‘Oh my gosh,’ Kathy said, ‘Everything, you know, matched.’
But by then, Kathy had sent the man over $92,000 and her life was in pieces.
‘He ruined my credit too. I got kicked out of my bank. They closed my account and they were afraid I was laundering money,’ Kathy told ABC Chicago.
The conman feels Kathy this screenshot of a bank account. He claimed it was his, and that he cold pay her back for all the money she was sending
Kathy was forced to delay her retirement to pay off her new debts, and texts show that the relationship with Hubby caused a rift with her children.
‘Because of me your children have turned against you,’ Hubby wrote in a text.
Data from the Federal Trade Commission show that victims have lost $1.3 billion to romance scams in the past five years, and that instances of reported scams multiplied six-fold from 2017 to 2021.
‘He broke my heart. He tore my life apart,’ Kathy said.
Data from the Federal Trade Commission shows that romance scams exploded during the pandemic, increasing six-fold from 2017 to 2021
Steve Bernas, the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois, told ABC Chicago that though online dating scams increased during the pandemic, the true scope is unknown as they remain largely unreported.
‘Some feel that they’re really embarrassed that their family will find out and some that we’ve talked to still believe that they [the fake lovers] exist and they’re gonna come out of the woodwork again,’ he said.
‘And it’s always a reason they can’t meet you. And that’s what we call the tip off to the rip off.’
Aurora police told DailyMail.com that without the victim’s full name they could not verify whether she had filed a report about the scam, and that they would typically hand such a case off to the Chicago FBI as internet scams are often perpetrated across state or even national lines.
Sparks Network, the company that owns SilverSingles, could not be reached for comment, but told ABC Chicago that it advises users on their site to cease communications with anyone who asks for money and report the profile.
‘Dating should be fun, so we want to ensure our platforms are a safe and comfortable space for our users,’ it said in a statement to ABC Chicago.
‘Safety is always a top priority in everything we do, across all our brands at Spark Network. Upon detection of any potential fraudulent behavior, we apply many countermeasures. Spark utilizes external AI-based tools, robust transaction detection, internal filters and employs a sizeable, dedicated fraud team for the manual review of cases. Unfortunately, as with any online activity, there are “bad actors” out there, however we remain dedicated to keeping our users safe on our platforms,’ the statement said.