CONSUMER FIRST ALERT: Local woman shares romance scam story to help others

A new report from the FTC finds romance scams hit a record high in 2021.
Updated: Feb. 14, 2022 at 5:55 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - It’s Valentine’s Day, but not all sweethearts are looking for love. The Federal Trade Commission reports the number of victims in romance scams at an all-time high.

A local woman reported her story to the FTC and Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin. Vicki spoke with Consumer First Alert in hopes of preventing other people from falling victim.

“Like in a book, you’ve got the mystery, you’ve got the romance. Pretty soon I was investigating,” said Vicki. “Is he a real person?”

Vicki says she wasn’t looking for love when she met a stranger through a game on Facebook.

“You start talking to each other. In a matter of a month or so, you develop feelings because it was every morning, every night, during the day,” Vicki says.

The scammer sent Vicki messages saying he was a widow. Vicki is a widow.

He said he worked on an oil rig and was unable to meet in person.

He used her faith to lure her in.

“All the time I talked with him it was ‘prayers’,” Vicki says.

In three months, his devotion turned into deception when he asked for money.

“To start, it was just a couple thousand dollars,” Vicki said.

He asked her to take out a loan for $72,000.

That was the end. Vicki reported it to the Better Business Bureau.

“These scammers take several months really to get to know their victims, and what they’re really doing is trying to get as many details about the victims as possible so they can figure out the best way to use them in their scams,” says Susan Bach, Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin.

A new report from the FTC finds romance scams hit a record high in 2021. Victims lost $547 million. Losses were up nearly 30 percent.

“The more reports, the more they’re going to find out the problem is wider spreader than it is,” says Vicki. “And it’s not easy to report it, because you don’t want to say look what an idiot I am. Because you’re looking back. That was really foolish. That was really dumb,” Vicki says.

Bach says, “Not only have these victims made a financial investment because they’ve sent money for plane tickets or something, but they’ve made a huge emotional investment. So when they find out they’ve been taken, that person they thought was their next husband or wife is really a scammer, they are heartbroken and they feel betrayed. We’ve heard of instances where people have, you know, committed suicide. It’s just a devastating emotional impact for them as well.”

Vicki has joined Facebook groups to expose scammers and their grooming tactics.

CLICK HERE for more information on signs of romance scams.

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