When we look back over our lives, most of our dramas and melodramas are about love, the quest to find love, to hold on to love, to recover from love lost. This story is no different but it has a modern twist– the lovers never meet in person. Love is found on the internet—even if we’re not searching for it—but this is a stage for lies and deception even for the most educated and well-traveled. It’s the setting for online romance scams.
“Duped, a true story of a sweetheart scam online” is the story of how Elise Morgan, a professional woman who has lived and worked in several countries, is pursued by a suitor online, her journey inward to understand how she allowed herself to be duped into giving away thousands of dollars, and her experience in working with police authorities and bankers in online frauds.
In the U.K. and Australia, sweetheart scams are all over the news. The U.K. National Fraud Authority calculates that one in 50 Brits knows someone who has been scammed online, that is, they’ve sent money to someone who promised love but only stole their money—and broke their heart. In 2010-11, the financial loss to the online wooing con artists was $13.9 million. An estimated 200,000 Brits have been victims, and one-third have lost $7,850 or more. And the scams go largely unreported due to feelings of shame and heartbreak.
In the U.S. there’s minimal media coverage as Americans aren’t talking about the scams they’ve been victim of. And the federal reporting center for fraud merely advises the victim to contact the local police. About one-third aren’t reported to the police or the report isn’t filed by the local authorities. In May 2012, Investor’s Business Daily reported that online romance fraud (U.S. accounts) had totaled $50 million the previous year—and that’s only the sums that were reported.
Perpetrators of the scams, often Nigerians, report that the easiest victims to scam are Americans—there has to be considerable experience duping Americans for this to be commonly believed among the thieves.
But they’re not all Nigerians. This scam was based in Asia, crossed India, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Dubai. All locales Elise had traveled or lived. Her international experience didn’t make her any wiser in this scenario, only drew her more tightly into the web.
This is a heart-breaking story, but there are lessons to be learned even in the unhappiest scenario. This story is told for you, the reader, to learn from Elise’s errors of judgment.