I was the victim of an online dating scam. Have you been through something similar? 119

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When my ex-husband left me for a younger woman, I thought I’d never regain my confidence. In time though, I lost weight, made new friends and even started dating online. I thought my troubles were all behind me – but I was soon to be duped by an online scammer who broke my heart.

After six years of living alone and divorced, my daughter Eliza* suggested that I give online dating a try. She signed me up for a profile on Australia’s largest matchmaking website, and explained how everything worked. At first I was nervous about having my photograph online, but Eliza showed me her own profile and had been on some successful dates herself. What did I have to lose?

After chatting with a few dud candidates online, I was contacted by Greg*. Greg was everything I’d hoped for since my marriage broke down. He was confident, comforting and complimentary. He listened to the stories of my ex-husband’s betrayal, and shared similar hurts from his own life. Greg told me I was beautiful, and after a time, said he would do anything to make me happy.

For at least four months, my internet conversations with Greg proceeded and nothing was out of the ordinary. So when I received a panicked phone call from him late one night, I believed something was truly amiss. Greg told me his son Lucas* had been stranded in Singapore, because the local government there wouldn’t release his passport.

Greg and I had exchanged photos of our children, so I immediately felt as though I knew Lucas too. I wanted too help, so I asked Greg whether there was anything I could do? He was sheepish in this next request. “It’s going to cost $800 to have Lucas’s passport released”, Greg told me. It didn’t seem like too much money to ensure the safety of a child, right? Wouldn’t Greg do the same for me and my family?

Knowing that Greg had lost most of his savings to a nasty ex-girlfriend, I offered him $800 then and there. “You would do that for me?” asked Greg, clearly touched. “Yes, because I love you,” I told him shyly. Soon, we were both exchanging our declarations of affection. I was thrilled that Greg shared my feelings too.

After Lucas appeared to arrive safely in Australia, Greg and I resumed our conversations, but now we were always on the phone. It didn’t take much longer for trouble to strike again though. “Lucas caught a foreign virus in Singapore,” Greg told me, “It must have been the stress of losing his passport which made him worse.” Lucas was apparently in hospital in far regional Western Australia, and he needed a procedure that would require traveling to Broome.

“How much will everything cost?” I asked Greg. He replied, “$2600”. That was more money than Lucas’s last incident, but if Eliza was in the same position I’d want her in safe hands too. I agreed to loan Greg the money, and he promised to pay me back once a settlement with his ex-girlfriend was complete.

That was the beginning of my downward spiral. Over the next eighteen months, life seemed to go from bad to worse for Greg and his family. I don’t want to disclose how much money I was swindled out of, but suffice to say for a woman of humble means, the financial blow was crippling.

One day I told Eliza that I was worried about Greg. He had become distant, demanding and sometimes even mean. “What do you mean, Mum?” Eliza asked. I told her everything, even though it was humiliating, from Lucas’s passport woes to his health concerns. “Mum,” Eliza said looking alarmed, “I think you’re being scammed.”

It didn’t take long for us to search Greg’s apparent family photos online, only to find they belonged to another person entirely. We contacted the local Fraud Squad and Scamwatch, which is run by the ACCC. I was informed that even though my circumstances were regrettable, there was little the police or authorities could do to recover my money.

Apparently most of these online dating scams are run by people in Africa, Asia and even Eastern Europe. The funds are normally untraceable, and since I’d foolishly used Western Union for the transfers, there were no receiving details on the other end. The internet has made such illegal activity not only easy, but commonplace.

Worse than the financial degradation though, was my broken heart. After nearly two years of speaking with Greg on the phone every day, I truly believed we were in love. He had promised that when his settlement was finalised, he was going to move from one side of Australia to the other, just to live with me. Knowing this was actually a farce, just devastated me. When I confronted Greg about his fraudulent behaviour over the phone, he never rang back again. I don’t even know his true name.

In time though, I learnt there were other victims just like me. Men and women alike from all over Australia have been conned by online dating scams. Reading their stories, or hearing about them on television, has slowly helped me feel less alone. I still have a lot of guilt because I trusted someone so blindly, and acted irresponsibly with my own money. Although I am hoping for a brighter future.

For people who are thinking about dating again, I’ll tell you the same thing I say to everyone now. It’s much better to meet people in person from your common circles of family, friends and community groups. Going online just opens you to vulnerability and even danger. Trust your instincts, because if something (or someone) seems too good to be true, they probably are.

Have you been the victim of an online dating scam too? Do you know someone who has been affected? Share your thoughts and experiences below:

*names changed to protect identities

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. It amazes me that people still fall for these scams. With all the publicity out there I don’t understand how someone can be so naive. I am not being judgemental, I am just bewildered.

    23 REPLY
    • Likewise Debbie, I think they must be so lonely that any clear thinking goes out the window! Some women that have been interviewed are clearly highly intelligent

    • Same here … the Internet can become a fantasy world for some people who are so lonely that they want to believe whatever the other person is portraying to be real when in reality all they are doing is preying on the weaknesses of the vulnerable … You appear to be a very kind and generous person … I sincerely hope that you meet someone who is worthy of your friendship ..

    • Me 3,I’ve had 5 live ins back 20 yrs ago, I’m 60 now😀things were not the world the internet has bought to lonely people 😂 none of my guys got 5 c out of me.and they paid board lol just they change after honeymoon year or two lol I just wanted back the non& dad family that DV took away.i know lonely 365 days for last 15 years.
      But peace and freedom and bad health dictate so😍😍😍

    • Me too, I had a friend that was scammed like this because she was so incredibly lonely, however although we her friends tried to warn her. She wouldn’t hear of it, it’s very sad.

    • I’m not as kind as the rest of you. I’m afraid I have to admit to having little sympathy for women who fall for these scams. Particularly when friends and family try to warn them. And with all the publicity about these scams.

    • Amazes me too,beyond comprehension!! If I couldn’t get a bloke the normal way forget it would only want one part time at that age anyway,I’ve got one here I’ve been married to for 59 years would give away if I could…

    • Lol JudyChappell such honesty love it medal for you my dear

    • I feel exactly the same. I can remember the first Nigerian emails I received telling me about all the money I was getting from someone’s will, and likewise things. I never replied, and soon was reading about the scams from all over the world, which then extended to Dating Sites. I’ve read the most dreadful stories, not just about money, but about about people unthinking enough to meet someone they’d met on a site . . . . but not in public – THEY’VE INVITED THEM TO THEIR HOMES, and some dreadful thing ensued. I guess the thing is that we don’t get anything for nothing, and to have expectations from people we know nothing whatsoever about is extremely worrying. I suppose SOME people must have pleasant outcomes from these Sites, but it’s nothing I would ever trust, ever, ever, ever. I do realise how lonely some people are. I have been at time through my life as well, but my own personal safety comes before everything. PLEASE ladies, be very, very careful if you go on Dating Sites, and always let someone else whom you trust to know everything about it, if you do go on one. Keep all emails in a folder, and go through them every now and then, and let your trusted person read them too, and give an unbiased, unemotional view of them. I am so terribly sorry for this lady – it was an extremely hard lesson for her to learn.

    • I don’t think you are being unkind Kaylene … And I find it astonishing too when you hear of situations like this one … but we all deal with loneliness and grief in different ways and sometimes people think with their hearts and what they wish to be true and not their heads –

    • I don’t understand it either. I have even heard of family members trying to help by pointing out the bleeding obvious, but still they blindly cling on to their beliefs. It’s so sad really…

    • OMG Roselyn Waters, no not judgemental people are WARNED all the time and it astonishes me that people DON’T LISTEN.

    • We’re not goodies, just not stupid. I was widowed 20 years ago and I have a partner whom I met 7 years ago via a dating web site. You have to be suspicious of someone asking for money when you’ve never even met in person.

    • Judy Chappell as ROSELYN didn’t answer I think she maybe a person who PERHAPS HAS BEEN SCAMMED.

  2. Never been online dating but thanks for your honest story – it may stop others from making the same mistake. And I hope you find someone who is truly good to you.

    2 REPLY
    • I doubt if this story will make a difference because if one is lonely all commonsense seems to fly out the window unfortunately…

    • Wrong Sondra Jones anyone can be scammed dosent matter if you have a partner or not. You are using the internet! It happens everyday. The only people who have no commonsense are the ones who think “this wont happen to me”.jeanette you are amazing with heaps of compassion. If only there were more people like you♡

  3. On line dating can be very successful and rewarding but why would anyone give money to someone they had not met in person! Or only talked to over the phone. Declarations of love early on or the most common one” Jesus wanted us to meet!”, just make me so wary. I have had several scams attempted and it is so obvious.

  4. no I would rather be run over by a truck that go to an online dating website, I will never be that desperate

    10 REPLY
  5. Had a ball with my scammer ! He was everything I ever dreamed of, made me feel so special! Then I noticed the grammar was different, in saying that it looked like 2 people were typing! Meeting him was difficult, the excuses he gave me! Another alarm bell went off, so I googled his name, he lived not far away had property out west! He also said his wife had died, and I found out she was still alive! I played him big time! AND then he had to fly to Ghana urgently, so off he went, next he couldn’t fly back to Australia because he didn’t make arrangements with the bank, it went on and on! So more investigation on my behalf 😉 led to me reporting him to Scamwatch! Stolen identity theft! Then I ticked all the boxes they matched me with and said I’m outta here, guess what? I found a lovely gentleman I wasn’t even looking for in the first instance! I was curious to see how the Dating Sites works… Also made some lovely friends! Some want phone sex, and the list goes on! Do be careful! If in doubt check it out!

    5 REPLY
  6. I am so sorry that this has happened to yet another seemingly intelligent person [men get scammed too]. Surely the daughter should have smelled a Rat. Aside from the money aspect, I shuddered when I read how you told him all the horror stories about your previous relationship, why would you do that, it just tells how vulnerable & desperate you where. As the other replies say, there have been heaps & heaps of stories on the Net and on TV warning people about this.

    1 REPLY
    • Sounds like she didn’t tell her daughter what was happening as it was happening, only when he seemed to be becoming not so nice anymore.

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