Lots of people look for love online. When it happens, it’s great. But, a bad romance can destroy trust, break hearts and, in some cases, drain bank accounts. 7’s Rebecca Vargas has more.
“I am looking and ready for a long term relationship.” Those simple words caught Susan Parks’ eye.
Susan Park, scam victim: “It said he was going to hold his breath until he heard back from me.”
The man’s name was Robin Ford. The two met on Zoosk, a popular online dating site. But Ford lived in Ohio. Susan lived in Coral Springs.
But even though they didn’t meet face-to-face, the romance heated up.
Susan Park: “I thought he was kind of looney about — how could he fall in love with me, as he put it, so quickly?”
A couple of weeks into the relationship, Ford told Susan he was in Istanbul, Turkey on business. Then she got a message that he’d been in a car accident there.
Susan Park: “He sent me an e-mail with pictures of a totally smashed car. It supposedly shattered his entire right leg.”
Ford said he couldn’t access his bank accounts from the hospital. He asked to borrow $2,000 from Susan. But the requests for money didn’t stop there.
Susan Park: “Two money orders for $35,000 each and one for $40,000.”
He promised to pay her back. She didn’t know it, but Susan had fallen hard for what’s known as the “sweetheart scam.”
Detective Brett Schroy, Coral Springs Police: “I think seniors are probably the most vulnerable.”
Detective Brett Schroy says the scam is making the rounds in Coral Springs these days.
Detective Brett Schroy: “Typically, somebody that depicts themselves as a business owner, somebody that travels a lot. They try to put some pressure on the person that they’ve been communicating with to give them money.”
Susan gave him all she had: $126,000.
The day came when he was supposed to fly in from Istanbul to finally meet her, but when his flight arrived, he wasn’t on it.
Susan Park: “All the lies. I can’t believe somebody could be like that.”
Police say the names and photos used in sweetheart scams are almost always fake. And catching con artist cupids is a shot in the dark.
Detective Brett Schroy: “The investigation to identify the person may go on for months. And what do we do for this lady now? How can we possibly console her?”
Susan is heartbroken and now she’s in big trouble financially.
Susan Park: “I’m penniless. I’m destitute.”
She hopes that sharing her story will warn others about the dangers of a bad romance.
Dating sites aren’t required to do background checks on their members.
Police say it’s up to each individual to thoroughly check out the man or woman they’re interested in and to be careful, especially if they ask for money.
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