Christian Romance scams and religious romance scams prey on gullible Americans
By Tom P Blake - Finding Love after 50
Romance Scam update
Note from Tom in 2016: Please see the end of this story. It includes responses from readers the following week.
You may find yourself judging Sue--not her real name--as her story unfolds here today. But, keep in mind her situation at the time, which Sue describes, "Having lost my husband two years earlier, I was very vulnerable, lonely and easy pickins, just what scammers look for. A man manipulated me emotionally."
Sue was on a site called Singles-Net when she met Edward Hayes, screen name "immortalhayes." He was on Yahoo and liked to be called Eddie. Sue and Eddie began emailing right away.
Sue said, "I am a Christian, he said he was too and he played that angle well. He posted an attractive photo along with an interesting profile."
After two weeks, they started to live chat on Yahoo. "We chatted back and forth for sometimes most of the day for over one month. We also talked on the phone almost every day and he was big on text messaging.
"I was getting way too much attention but at the time was flattered and enjoying it. He told me I was beautiful and that he loved me and really wanted to meet me.
"He was never lewd or off-color, just really sweet with a great sense of humor. I trusted Eddie and felt like we were getting to know each other well." Sue was sliding into a category of senior religious romance scams, also known as Christian romance scams
Eddie told Sue that he was a 50-year-old contractor working in Nigeria (red flag) on a two-year project building an oil refinery that was just wrapping up. He was Irish and his wife and two children had been killed in a car accident in London seven years before.
Since then, Eddie had poured himself into his work and was wealthy. He claimed to have houses all over Europe. On his profile, he said he lived in Temecula, CA, on a horse property.
"Eddie was coming back to the states soon and wanted to meet me. He talked about marriage and said I was his true love. He was incredibly romantic, even saying the same things my husband had said to me, it was unreal.
"I agreed to meet him when he finished his project. He had me book a hotel for him near where I live for two weeks. He also wanted me to start looking for real estate for him. He wanted to spend $ 3-5 million. He acted like royalty and said money was no object. He wanted to buy me a couple of cars and also give me the $200,000 diamond ring he had given his wife.
"I am not a person that bases relationship on money, but I was willing to try it. It was all too good to be true and I thought it was either a miracle or a scam but wanted to believe it was real."
As the date got closer for him to come, things started getting complicated. He told Sue he couldn't leave when he originally planned because he had to wait to get paid on the project. Then he said he was having problems with the authorities and the corruption in Nigeria. He had a Nigerian driver that he went everywhere with, and felt safer with 'Frank' around.
Sue continued, "Things dragged on and then he called and said he needed money to board the plane, as he would not be able to cash his check until he got to London and them he would wire me the money immediately. I told him I didn't want to give him any money and thought he was scamming me. He assured me he would never do that and would pay me back. I sent him the money through MoneyGram; I think it was about $2,500."
Then Frank called and said that Eddie had been nabbed by the police and the police wanted to be paid off to let him board the plane. Eddie got on the phone and pleaded with me, crying and all, afraid of what they might do to him.
"This time, he needed $8,000 and again he would pay me back at his first stop in London. He pleaded with me and told me he loved me more than anything and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I borrowed the money from my equity line of credit and sent it through MoneyGram.
"Then he called and said they still wouldn't let him get on the plane, and the drama continued! They kept telling him he could get on the next plane and then the next and on and on it went."
This went on for two days. Sue was awoken at about 2 AM by her phone ringing. It was a big, mean, scary voice asking if she was Mrs. Hayes.
Sue said, "I said no, but he said Eddie said I was his wife. At this point I started shaking and my heart was beating fast. The voice told me if I wanted to see Eddie alive I would have to send $48,000 as soon as possible. They were going to kill him. I told them I didn't have that kind of money and that I had sent him all the money I had."
Sue knew at that point she'd been duped. She sent no more money, although Eddie and Frank kept calling. They told her $24,000 would be ok.
"I was scared. I called the police the next morning and they came over and took a report and said there was nothing they could do and that I was out the money and people get scammed falling for different schemes all the time."
The officer told Sue that eventually they would stop calling. Eddie called again and said he'd mail a check and asked for her address and last name. He also promised gifts. Sue didn't bite.
"He called one more time and I answered it because I really did like him, whoever he was. He tried to suck me back in one more time and when he knew I wasn't going for it, his voice changed and he didn't sound so sweet anymore! That was the last time I talked to him."
The scam lasted a month and a half. Sue filed a report with the FBI and reported it on her taxes.
"It was one expensive lesson, but it woke me up out of my stupor and will never happen again. I joined a dating scam support group that was helpful, I found out I wasn't the only one it had happened too. Some got scammed for a lot more, some a lot less. I was in the mid-range. It took longer to recover from the emotional trauma than the realization I was out the 11 K ($10,500 + $500 in misc. expenses.)
'This is it in a nutshell, one big NUTshell."
If you are Internet dating, and you hear the word Nigeria, delete the message. If something sounds too good to be true, it is. You can't fall in love with someone you've never met. Never send money to a stranger. Don't be naive, don't be gullible.
Please do not get caught up in senior romance scams, religious romance scams or Christian Romance Scams. They are very prevalent.
Responses to the above story from readers:
Mailbag - reactions to last week's scam story
Michigan woman: "I admire this woman for daring to bare the truth--BUT."
Jon, "I once got an email at work where someone was going to drop off a box with 14 million in it for me. I was off to a meeting so a co-worker said he would pick up the box at reception if I would give him half. Never saw the cash."
Midwest woman: "This article haunts me. I read it several times--and get something different each time. First, she is blaming HIM for manipulating HER, "because I was vulnerable". Well--she knew that, so why not be EXTRA careful? Second, she knew this was a scam. Third, widows need to NEVER loan money, not even to their children, without a signed and witnessed note, and even then, expect to not have it paid back, and certainly not to someone they have NEVER met."
Canadian woman: "This sad story is not about "dating scams" at all. It is more an illustration of how lonely and emotionally needy people may live in fantasy to the point that their behavior becomes self-harming."