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Scam artists targeting online dating sites

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Updated: 11/08/2013 11:41 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Dorothy McDuffie didn’t want to tell anyone.

“My family knew something was wrong with me because I was acting so different.  I wouldn't let them in to help me.  I thought I could take care of myself,” she said.

But McDuffie soon realized she couldn't.

This 64-year-old grandmother and retired flight attendant from Jacksonville was alone.  Her husband died a year earlier.

So like a lot of singles, she turned to the Internet for companionship but got swept up in a con instead.        

“I thought I was mature enough and smart enough and not so naive to fall for something like that,” said McDuffie.

Older Americans are falling hard and fast.

Last year, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, women 50 and older were by far the biggest victims of online romance scams.  They accounted for 61 percent of online financial losses that totaled nearly $60 million.

It’s something the Florida Department of Elder Affairs works hard to make seniors aware of.

“For every one we hear about; for every one that's reported to us; there are 24 that we don't know about that don't get reported,” said Department Secretary Charles Corley.

Corley said his department tries to educate mothers and fathers.

People are living longer and often have a little money stashed away. He recommends young adults talk with their parents about these romance scams.

“Absolutely, the other end of the spectrum of what you're describing is what doesn't happen nearly frequently enough.  And that's those conversations to beware of this,” said Corley.

McDuffie is sounding the alarm.

She was taken by a fake Romeo she met on the dating website Match.com.

The person behind the fake account said he was in the military and loved her.

Soon they were emailing non-stop.

He got stuck in a foreign land and needed money to get out.

First, she sent several hundred dollars and then more and more. It was one money problem after another.

“Hoping and wishing that I finally found somebody that was willing to take care of me and wanted to take care of me and like me for who I was instead of me helping everybody else out,” McDuffie shared.
But instead of him taking care of her, it was McDuffie who got taken. When all was said and done, she was out more than $15,000.

Representatives from Match.com tell Action News they take steps to protect clients from falling victim to scam artists.

They have warnings posted on their website, and on every message sent or received. 

Even with the warnings, they admit some scam artists do find ways to trick people.

A Match.com spokesperson said in those instances, the website quickly acts to block a false account.  They also work with law enforcement to track down the scam artist.

“I wasn't mom. I wasn't grandma. I was sheltering myself from everybody. I didn't want anybody to know what happened,” McDuffie said.

If you feel that you or a loved one has been the victim of an online scam, contact your local police department.
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