Florida woman left devastated after losing $1m in online dating scam
These days, dating apps are seen as commonplace and you know pretty much exactly what to expect. You swipe left or right, you make small talk, you go on a date, you fall madly in love (or find out your suitor is a complete freak and swear off relationships forever), and that's that.
However, now that they're seen as run-of-the-mill, it's easy to forget that sites like these can be extraordinarily dangerous and are often used by predators to target the vulnerable.
But we all received a bleak reminder of this recently when a 69-year-old woman - who is beginning to suffer from dementia - was fooled into handing over $1 million to a dating scam.
Pamela Viles from Sarasota told WWSB News that she created a profile on dating website Match in order to search for companionship. After becoming a member, she was wooed by an Australian-born business owner who had citizenship in Canada.
Believing that she had met a nice man online, the 69-year-old claimed they texted daily and he called her twice a week. "This was intimate, love, details, dreaming, so so deep," she said. "I felt like I really knew him closer than anybody that I had known."
However, their love story wasn't to last. Soon enough, the mystery man who Pamela had never met began asking her to send him money to run his business after he found himself in trouble and had a 'heart attack from stress'. Thinking she was in love, from 2016 to 2018, she withdrew money from her bank accounts and took cash advances on her credit cards, despite never meeting the man.
However, after two years of sending him her hard-earned money, she discovered that the whole thing was a scam, with the man on the phone running a fraudulent scheme to steal money from the unsuspecting. It is estimated that Pamela wired him roughly $1 million, leaving her now approximately $350,000 in debt.
Now, Pamela - who is too old to work - reportedly stands to lose her house and is in ill health, suffering from panic attacks and going through knee surgery a few weeks ago. In an effort to save her mother, her daughter has created an online campaign to raise money.
In it, she writes: "She [Pamela] does not understand social media and other technology including smartphones and has made a lot of mistakes. These people have scammed and coerced my mother to drain everything she had in savings and IRA’s, maxed out credit cards and taken loans against her own house to send to a man she was convinced was real and she was in love with."
She continues: "All the money was sent to Dubai and she was told her online lover was working on a project and got in trouble with business and had a heart attack from stress. The man talked to her on the phone for 2 years lying too her. She wanted to have a relationship with someone and a happy life like her peers. They took advantage of how caring my mother is and she sent all her money to help him get out of the hospital."
The 69-year-old has now warned others who may fall victim to a similar scam, telling them to be sceptical if a story sounds too good to be true. According to the FBI, romance scams such as these have been around for years and are responsible for millions of dollars in thefts.