I was scammed out of most of my life savings, $479K, by a serial, seamless criminal who groomed me for a month with intimate bonding techniques.
After surviving a long marriage and raising four children, I spent four years recovering from a divorce I did not want. I moved to a location that would be significantly cheaper than where I had lived before to stretch my investment accounts. Part of my investments was a legacy inheritance from my parents, and part of it was a rollover of a 401K that went to an IRA. I also have another 3.5 years of alimony, two pensions that will start soon, and a percentage of the ex’s SS combined with mine that will help in the future. I now realize while my life is going to be radically different than I expected, I will eventually have a normal life again following the crushing devastation of an evil predatory scripted criminal, talking me out of most of my investments.
The correspondence with the criminal started on an online dating site that starts with e. Anyway, it quickly moved to e-mail and phone calls and total certainty that this person and I were meant to be life partners both in intimacy and business. The grooming phase lasted for about a month. I was sent detailed bank account statements, his LinkedIn page, many pictures of the supposed scammer and his daughter, granddaughter, son-in-law, and pictures of the supposed scammer on vacations, at work sites, all states of undress including frontal nudity and many forms of poetry, music, and discussions of dreams for our future together when he retired in a couple of years, travel plans, places he wanted to show me.
Thinking all along, I was carrying on an adult relationship with an age-appropriate male; there were no holds barred on the nature of our intimate discussions or expressions of love and total devotion. Sharing similar past life experiences and life disappointments only made the supposed understanding and bond deeper and more satisfying.
After about 4-6 wks., the events leading to my financial losses started. His supposed financial needs related to a work project overseas were always calmly explained- there was no POA available to access his personal accounts in the US. He would, of course, reimburse my funds. All these discussions were during live phone conversations with no signed contract agreements, of course. And always more and more information and “proof” of his desire that I be able to trust him happened over and over again. He sent me a photo of his passport, detailed work project plans, including the company name, many pictures on site of the work itself. His LinkedIn page, as I stated, detailed invoices of further settlements with suppliers that he needed to satisfy in order to get the hold on his passport lifted so he could leave to join me soon. He sent me detailed itineraries of his flight plans to join me after leaving the work project, pictures of him working on site, etc… He also often called me in the middle of the night due to the “time difference,” which kept me sleep-deprived. When I would ask questions about why there was no one else to contact for money, he kept stating he was a very private person and didn’t want to hurt his company reputation.
He also sent me detailed plans for our travel together to meet his daughter and spend time at a resort. He sent pictures of himself traveling in Asia, South America, Switzerland, and more.
This criminal coached me on how to use sites I had never used, including bitcoin sites, wallets, and the like. He convinced me to sell my home and meet him in his home state. I drove to meet him in his home state, and there found that there was no such person, no such home address. I spent about a week in the hotel room realizing my belongings were headed to storage with the mover I paid for, my house would be sold, and I had only my suitcases and dog with me in a strange place. The criminal even kept texting me for money as I drove to meet him.
If I were not for my personal faith in God, I would have committed suicide. I kept wishing I would have a heart attack and just be gone. I spent most of that week on the floor, crying and praying to be taken to God. The only thing that kept me grounded was my dog, his needs, and his sensing he needed to stay close to me at all times. I called my realtor immediately the first day, and I don’t remember much of the conversation other than telling her everything and her saying, “Come home.” She has been a mother hen to me through this time. All of this was just pre-COVID. So the whole process took less than three mos.
I drove back to my home about 750 miles away, arriving to an empty house. I called my mover the 2nd day out of state, and he is also a person of faith and immediately reversed my shipment of goods. I had given a lot of belongings away to Habitat for Humanity and was able to retrieve a few of them, also some things from friends that I had given goods too.
It has been less than three months since I returned home, and while life will never be as it was six months ago, I am slowly building a support system and deep knowledge that God loves me and is with me. And He was with me through this entire evil process. It was His money before I had it, and it is still His money. I was able to put some money back into a small IRA before the 60-day limit, obtained a part-time job quickly, thankfully I have the divorce settlement funds, and I will likely start taking SS a bit early next year. I don’t need wealth and fancy things, and God promises to supply all my needs. I have a good CPA/EA, a financial advisor who helped me see I will be alright month to month and have also obtained a tax attorney to represent me to the IRS in 2021. I had to cancel my ACA health care insurance as the investment income puts me over the limit on income to receive a tax credit, so I still have to figure out how to afford health care this year. I realize I may lose my home and have to declare bankruptcy in a worst-case scenario next year, but even then, life will go on somehow.
I am angry that the criminal who took my hand and led me into this mess will never be held accountable. Even with filing with FTC and FBI and still having hundreds of e-mails, documents, pictures, and all the saved transactions, I will never see that money again, and it likely went to fund further criminal activity. And the person whose pictures were used is also a victim. Either his pictures were stolen or somehow otherwise obtained, and I’m sure any pictures I sent the evil entity are being used to lure in men to a false relationship to obtain their money.
Billions of dollars leave the USA economy due to scams such as this. And the government and legal professions, including the IRS mostly think it somehow is all the fault of the victims who were lured into partnership with criminal professionals. I believed I was dealing with an honest adult who wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and also thought I was so careful, asking all the right questions and gaining “proof” that it was a legitimate relationship.
One statement of a friend really brought the balance of how this happens home to me. How were thousands of people duped out of their money by Bernie Madoff? He was a highly visible, professional, nefarious liar that cost people their life savings and, in some cases, including his own son, cost them their lives by suicide.
The main thing I want to convey to anyone reading this is you are not alone, and you will get through this. You are loved and valuable, and the dark chapter of being used by a criminal scam ring is not the end of your story. I want what happened to me to help others somehow. I hope by telling you my story, you gain comfort, calm, and strength for whatever your journey ahead is.
My only fault was believing a professional liar. Period. I am not to blame for the evil of others. I don’t know how long my recovery and reboot of life will take, but today is better than a few weeks ago, and like with any grieving process, there will be triggers and ups and downs, but that is true of any major life transition.
I only have to do today, plan and prepare as best I can for tomorrow, and be kind and loving to myself. Find the support you need during this time. Don’t let embarrassment silence you. The shame is not on you or me. My great sin was wanting love and companionship, which is normal. Taking advantage of vulnerable, caring people is just evil and criminal and something I will never understand and have to keep letting go and letting God. Justice is His.
And getting a team of financial help has been huge. Having a counselor once a week now helps me. Having online support groups helps, and also having a couple of friends who knows everything and don’t judge me helps. Obviously, there are many people who I will never share any of this with, as they will make negative assumptions or say things that are not helpful.
Love and peace to each of you