If you’re looking for love online, make sure you’re dealing with a real person. That’s the warning from Berkley police after they’ve seen a rise in romance scams this year.
In one case, a 75-year-old Berkley man lost nearly $80,000 in a scam that started on Instagram. The man, who we are not identifying, said they talked for six months.
“She wanted to be with me. She wanted to come here and live with me. And she wanted to marry me. That’s what she said,” he said.
Once the person slid into his direct messages, they started selling a sob story.
“She had money in the bank in Florida, and somebody broke into her account somehow and took some money out. And because of that, they locked her account up. And I felt sorry for her. She was asking me if I could help her. She had a wrestling match coming up on the weekend. And I said I think I can probably help you. What do you need? She said, ‘Well, I got to pay for the match. It’s $200,’’ he said.
That’s how it started. The romance blossomed, and so did the requests for cash. The person asked to be paid in pre-paid gift cards, even “steam” cards, which are used to buy video games and software online.
He told Berkley police he lost about $80,000, and about $5,00 he borrowed from friends after he ran out of money.
Berkley Police report just this year alone, they’ve received at least five reports of romance scams – many of the victims losing tens of thousands of dollars.
Lt. Andrew Hadfield said the victim we talked with also gave the scammer his Social Security Number, driver’s license number and bank account login information.
“The biggest thing comes into people pretending to be women, and they’re acting out and reaching out to usually older men,” Hadfield said.
Attorney General Dana Nessel re-issued a consumer alert about romance scams earlier this year.
Among her recommendations:
- Never give money to someone you haven’t met
- Be suspicious if the other person refuses to talk on the phone or do a video call
- Conduct an online reverse image search to see where else the person’s image appears and whether it has been altered
“How would you describe how this has impacted your life?” I asked the man
“It has impacted it quite a bit because, you know, being older,” he said. “Now everything is kind of ruined. It, it hurt me.”
The victim said he had to close and re-open all of his accounts and work with the Social Security Administration to ensure his identity is not stolen. Now, he’s considering getting another job to help pay his bills and pay back his friends.
Bottom line, do not send money to people you haven’t met in person.
Also, gift cards can’t be traced, and neither can VOIP numbers, the internet numbers, which a lot of scammers are using to stay undetected.