Woman Drops $500K in ChristianMingle Scam
Man behind the computer wasn't the hunky UK citizen he appeared to be
By Arden Dier, Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2014 2:00 PM CST

(Newser) – This dating scam didn't just break hearts, it broke the bank, too: A San Jose woman, 66, was conned out of $500,000 on ChristianMingle.com after a Nigerian man, pretending to be UK citizen "David Holmes," befriended her on the site. After several phone calls, texts, and even a bouquet of flowers, the woman agreed to give "David" a $300,000 loan for his supposed oil business. She refinanced her home and dug into her retirement account to fork over the funds—but it wasn't enough. He asked for $200,000 more, which the woman wired to a bank in Turkey, before she caught on and alerted authorities, CBS News reports.

When a Nigerian associate of the man turned up to withdraw the money—he'd entered Turkey using a fake passport, the San Fransisco Chronicle reports—he was arrested on suspicion of committing fraud, and the woman got her $200,000 back. The rest of her money is "just impossible to track down," the deputy district attorney says. The man behind the scam remains free, but his Skype account and email address were traced to Nigeria, which is "a hot bed of online scams," she notes. As for the man's profile picture? It was a snapshot of a male model he'd picked up on the web. "You get the love drug in you and you end up getting duped," the deputy district attorney adds.

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Jan 19, 2014 5:12 PM CST
First, when you are contacted by someone simply take their username and dump it into a Google search. It is not a question of how likely it is to help but of what earthly reason one could proffer for not bothering. I do it every time and would estimate the search is productive of information close to 25% of the time mostly because even mischievous persons have a certain tendency to reuse pen names. Just because someone is a scam artist does not mean they never falter in any way. Second, if you have any type of photograph for pity sake dump it into Google Images! I would say over 90% of the time if that picture has been used anywhere on the internet the result will come up in the search. Only days ago I did this and I am sure it would stun the woman involved but by following up and following through on the results I found every dating site where she put that picture and ended up, mostly from information she willingly put on the internet, knowing the real town she lives in; her last name; her maiden name; (the names, not the picture, led to listings about her connected to her work), the number of children she has and their ages; her degrees; her current job; some of her prior jobs. Not only can this serve to protect people but it can also serve to help bad people hurt you. Third, if you are ordering products, chatting or doing anything online that could expose you to exploitation or embarrassment and you intend to use email in connection with it, create separate email accounts for those purposes and do not use any real name, nor your real birthdate etc. (Vary you birthdate by one month, one day and/or one year). Fourth, if you have any kind of telephone number (and the more you have the less expensive this can be) there are inexpensive and totally legitimate reverse look up sites that may end up providing you with name; address; prior address; other members of household. If this site permits me to do so I will be happy to set forth the name of the search site I have used that I find quite adequate. Depending upon the stakes and your ability, it is not always unreasonable to use more than one. Fifth, do a Google search of any phone number and you will get results along the lines of "who is calling me from this number". it is usually blogs but you can use your judgment to assess the information. Once I have a result I enter that number in my address book with a descriptive name: credit scam from NC; direct marketer from Cali; etc. Sixth, my desktop has a shortcut to a listing of all area codes, thought periodically one may want to update it. Compare the are code with where any person is telling you they are from or just to know where in fact it is from. Seventh, whether or not you have a username to search, be creative, be intelligent and do multiple Google searches just using common sense phrases that relate in any way to what you are investigating: "is ___ legitimate"; "is ____ a scam"; "is __ a hoax". Fill in the blanks with a variety of words (type of business; type of product; claimed state of origin; any claimed age for the person. Pieces of information such as age; race; state of origin tend to help refine your search and your results.) Eighth, though I cannot vouch for it there is a site romancescams. There are also numerous sites devoted to consumer complaints but, again, you must use your critical faculties to assess such factors as: do they really work for the bad guys; are the entries in the blog trustworthy. Ninth: why would anyone need it explained that voice conversation provides a wealth of information that texting never will: is there background noise; is the conversation repeatedly interrupted; do you hear children, or business machines; does it sound like your pal is typing while the two of you converse; do you hear bleeping tones during the call; is your pals speech naturally responding promptly to yours; tone of voice; accent; dialect; vocabulary; diction; etc. All valuable information if you have the wit to make something of it. Tenth, any address of any kind you have including email should be Googled. For geographical addresses you want to try to examine aerial views, street views, photos, neighboring properties etc. If you know people in those localities then call them and question them! Eleventh: this is weakest for me because I am just not knowledgeable enough but perhaps others can chip in: a really good firewall can provide useful information although it may be a little difficult for most persons. (Most particularly as to where a communication actually originated.) With all of the foregoing I have trusted and been completely ripped off several times by web sites. There is usually no remedy. If they are in another state there will be no jurisdiction in your local small claim court and the amount will be too small for federal jurisdiction. In any event most people will need an attorney and will probably not be able to afford fees and, therefore, unable to find an attorney willing to undertake the case. Attorneys like anyone else have to make a living and they do it by practicing law not by doing charity work. Class actions make small claims economically feasible but you must still convince an attorney qualified to handle one that the claim is viable and has a decent chance of some form of success. Now, compare doing the above things to just saying to yourself "In a world rife with evil, corruption and greed, I am madly in love with someone I do not know from a hole in the wall, that I first contacted two weeks ago; to whom I have spoken by voice x number of times (if any!) who has really done squat for me except make overblown promises that would not be sincerely made even to someone younger, healthier, more famous, better looking and wealthier than I am, and that all sound way too good to be true; and I am thinking of sending my life's savings!" This is not comprehensive but it beats kissing off thousands of dollars. If you are enamored of just trusting folk and chastising those who do not, then no amount of advice is ever going to help. This includes saying "ah, it is just a chat (dating, singles) site and just a bunch of simple folk like myself."
Jan 18, 2014 7:30 PM CST
I never thought there were still people this stupid, after all the warnings about it! But, like P.T.Barnum said:"There's a sucker born every minute."
Jan 18, 2014 6:33 PM CST
Seems like priest's could use that site to help get with little boys... Nah. they just do that at work.