Investigation exposes romance scam links after man loses $100,000
HOUSTON - A Houston family says their elderly father was scammed out of more than $100,000 by a woman he met through a dating site.
Social Catfish reports unsuspecting people lost a record $547 million to romance scams last year, with Texas ranked the third-highest state.
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"There’s when he was really young," said Craig Lane.
When Craig and his sister Kelly look at photos of their 82-year-old father David Lane, they have one rather unpleasant memory.
"She took advantage of who he was, as a good, giving person," said Craig.
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Craig says his father was scammed by a woman going by the name of Susan Rogers whom he met on the dating site Match. Craig says Susan texted photos of an attractive woman, lots of 'I love you's,' and lots of requests to send money through Zelle.
"I saw in his bank account, a number of places where he had sent her money through that, $2,000 here, $2,000 there," said Craig.
Craig says Susan convinced David to invest in some oil interests. All told, Craig showed us that David texted Susan, "I’ve given you over $100,000 in the past month. I don’t have any more money."
When Susan asked for an iPad, David sent her one to an address three states away.
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We emailed and called Susan, no response. Then we looked up that out-of-state home and its phone number. It was listed as Susan Rogers, so we called. Turns out this Susan Rogers received that iPad.
"Yes, I have received two. One was from a David Lane," she told us.
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A David Lane she says she's never heard of. And the 69-year-old widow revealed she has also been scammed, by someone who calls himself Steven Rojas whom she met on Facebook.
"It was playing on my need for a friend I guess," said Rogers.
She says Steven deposited a fake check into her account and convinced her to send him money. When asked how much she lost, she told us, "$70,000 easy," but Rogers says she never reported it to the police.
"I'm too embarrassed," said Rogers. "You’re the only one I’ve ever said anything about this because I just feel so stupid."
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We sent the photos that David received to Social Catfish, a company dedicated to preventing online scams through its reverse search technology.
Social Catfish revealed the pictures were likely stolen from a social media influencer in Russia. And her photos have been used in other romance scams, according to DatingScams.cc. Social Catfish President David McClellan says Romance Scams have proliferated as scammers share their playbooks.
"They make changes every time something stops working. When there’s a new tactic or social network or a new agency trying to block them, or technology, they make adjustments," said McClellan. "And share this information among each other."
Nigerian scammers can make tens of thousands of US dollars a year. That's good money in a country with 37% unemployment. Social Catfish connected us with a former Nigerian scammer, who calls himself "Chris."
"For the first few weeks, we have a good relationship," explained Chris. "We talk, we chat, we understand each other. But at some point, I tell them I need money, I’m on unemployment."
Chris says he scammed women because he needed the money. But one day, he said, "The woman I scammed, she was depressed, I didn’t feel good about that."
Match Group, which owns several dating websites, including Tinder, Hinge, and Match, says they have just added new warnings and safety tips for users. But for the Lanes, it's too late. Craig says the fake Susan Rogers continues to text David’s phone, not knowing he passed away six weeks ago.
"Her taking advantage of his big heart, more than anything else, is what hurts me," said Craig.
The Federal Trade Commission just released the top lies that scammers use to get money so that consumers will recognize them as potential scams:
- That someone is sick, hurt, or in jail.
- They can teach you to invest.
- They're in the military far away.
- And they need help with delivery.