A Houston man spent nearly $80,000 to help a woman he met on an online dating site, only to learn that he had been scammed. Greg Davis said that he met a woman named “Malikah” on the popular online dating site Match.com. As their online romance grew, the woman started asking Davis for money to help her obtain her father’s inheritance.
Davis began sending the woman, “increments of $5,000, $10,000,” he said. “It was also spent trying to pay for the fine that was on the money in storage.” He spent his retirement savings, used his credit cards to their limits, and acquired more than a dozen “payday loans,” all to help what he thought was a beautiful woman in need. Over the course of two years, the scam cost him close to $80,000 and has all but ruined his credit rating.
When he asked the woman for evidence of the inheritance, she sent him a video of a heavy-accented man holding bundles of $100 bills. The bills show the word “GREGORY” printed on the front.
“I looked at it and took a $100 bill out of my pocket, and I put it down,” he said. “That’s not even close to being a currency, and so that’s when I knew the whole thing was all a mess.”
Davis is not alone. According to the FBI, more than 15,000 victims in the U.S., including about 1,000 in Texas, are taken in by these “romance scams.” These scams have reaped more than $230 million from U.S. residents, including more than $16 million from victims in Texas.
Sgt. Josh Nowitz of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office is a certified scam examiner. He offers some warning signs for those who believe they may be involved with a con artist.
“They’ll build up some sort of a relationship with this person through text through emails or sometimes even through Skype,” he said. “They’ll actually employ actors and things like that and so they’ll build up the relationship before asking for favors.”