Weston woman ends up homeless after romance scam

An increase in romance scams has been seen since the pandemic began.
Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 5:35 PM EDT
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WESTON, W.Va (WDTV) - A woman blinded by love ends up homeless after sending thousands of dollars to a man she only met online.

Some may say all you need is love, but for one Lewis County woman, who asked to remain anonymous, she said that what she thought was love turned out to be a not so happily ever after.

“I got bored and lonely,” said the woman.

That’s what started her journey to find love again, after she lost her husband.

“I went on the dating site ‘Mingle2’ and met this guy on there,” she said.

The widow met someone who she said lived overseas, but claimed to be from the U.S.

The Lewis County woman spent months speaking with the individual over the phone via text and other chatting apps, but never once saw him in person or over video chat. After a while of communicating, she thought he was interested in her, but it turned out he was more interested in her money.

“A couple months later, he was wanting to come home," she said. “I agreed to help him come home and it just never stopped with him wanting money.”

At that time he asked for $2,500, then soon after he asked for another $2,500 and then more and more money was asked for. With every transaction came a believable story and before the widow realized, she lost over $20,000.

“I felt that he truly loved me and he made me believe that but if I had to do it all over again, because I lost everything, my home, my vehicle, all my personal stuff,” the woman said.

Now the widow is homeless, but is currently residing with her aunt. Although this all began back in 2017, the Lewis County woman is still fighting to get back whatever she can. The FBI says that she’s not alone. Americans lost $201 million to romance scammers in 2019, according to Social Catfish, and a rise in romance scams have been seen nationally as well as in our area just during the pandemic alone.

The FBI provided 5 News with statistics from the north central area, which include Monongalia, Marion, Harrison, Taylor and Doddridge county. The FBI stated that in all of 2019, there were 8 victims who reported romance scams to Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) with total losses of $37,800. From January to September of this year, there were 16 victims with losses of $137,900, showing that the number of victims has doubled and loses have increased significantly. FBI officials said also that there may be more cases since people often don’t report these crimes, or sometimes they’re reported to local agencies and not IC3.

“They’re looking for vulnerable targets, people that are maybe isolated and alone,” said FBI Pittsburgh Assistant Special Agent in Charge Scott Argiro

Argiro said that anyone can be a target, especially now that people are more isolated due to COVID-19, but he says that the FBI wants to raise awareness specifically to those that are 55 and older.

“Online imposters can not only break your heart but they can also break your bank,” he said.

FBI officials also say to keep in mind that romance scammers are not just limited to dating apps, they can be found anywhere from Facebook to Tiktok.

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