A few weeks ago we warned you about how to avoid online dating scams, but unfortunately that info came too late to help a 58-year-old grandmother from Michigan who was scammed out of over $700,000 USD on Match.com. From WDIV in Detroit:
A man who called himself Donny Koch met her on the site and said he was from London. He said he worked on an oil rig and needed money, so she started sending thousands of dollars.
The man then told her he was caught with all the cash she sent him and was jailed. He said he needed money for bail, so she sent more and more money.
"She has given him approximately $703,000," said Troy police Captain Robert Redmond.
When she called police in Europe to ask about Donny Koch, she was told there is no such person.
Worse, local police acknowledged there was nothing they could do because the scammers were likely too far-flung internationally to be effectively pursued.
Terrible as this woman’s situation is, it made us curious about whether it was the biggest online dating scam ever reported. Based on our research, not quite. According to The Toronto Star, a Vancouver woman named Ellen (also a grandma, also lonely) lost over $1.3 million to a scammer running a variant of the Nigerian Scam. The case is depressingly similar, and The Star’s article worth reading for passages like this one:
A story, often highly detailed, is woven. According to the University of Leicester study, and interviews with experts here in Canada, there are commonalities. For men, the female scammer presents herself to her target as “young and vulnerable.”
For women, the man-on-the-make may say he’s wealthy or of high status, like a businessman or top soldier. He may also have a touching backstory: widowed, “lost their wife in a tragic accident, and are sometimes left with a child to care for.”
“They want to know who you’re looking for,” Williams says. “They want to know who you’re looking for because that’s who they become.”
At Findmate, we are constantly striving to improve our fraud detection policies, and we have a team of experts dedicated to responding to user reports of suspicious behavior. But online dating safety starts with you. Remember Ellen’s words: “Never make a payment. Never. That first payment is the hook.” It was a lesson that cost her over a million dollars.
Do you know of a bigger scam than these? Let us know in the comments!