A 69-year-old Florida woman says she could lose her home after a man she fell in love with online scammed her out of over $1 million.
Pamela Viles, of Sarasota, said she started talking to a man on Match.com in 2016, according to WBAL-TV. The TV station reports Viles sent the man money from her “IRA accounts, checking account, credit card loans and fraudulent wire transfer funds.”
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is investigating after she reported it to authorities on Sunday, Dave Bristow, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said in a phone interview with McClatchy.
“These are very difficult cases to investigate and to find out who is on the other line of this,” Bristow said. “We see scams all the time, but almost always it doesn’t end up with this much money lost. This is just really, really sad.”
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Viles said the man told her he owned a construction company in Dubai, according to Fox 13 News.
“He had an Australian accent, dual citizenship. He grew up in Australia and spent most of his life in Toronto,” the station reported her as saying.
She explained how one day, he said there was an accident on one of his construction sites and that he needed to borrow money from her, according to Fox 13.
“I felt like I really knew him closer than anybody that I had known,” Viles said, according to WWSB. “He just kept sucking me back in.”
She said her “little bit of dementia” might have contributed to her falling victim to the scam, WWSB reported.
“It’s tough because she again, has some health issues here but something should have thrown up a red flag,” Bristow told McClatchy. “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. A lot of the scammers prey on the elderly and that’s obviously what happened here.”
A GoFundMe campaign that appears to have been created by Viles’ son says she has had all her accounts frozen and could lose her house.
“She does not understand social media and other technology including smartphones and has made a lot of mistakes,” the campaign states. “These people have scammed and coerced my mother to drain everything she had in savings and IRA’s, maxed out credit cards and taken loans against her own house to send to a man she was convinced was real and she was in love with.”
Bristow said it’s “quite unusual” for people to lose as much money Viles did. Generally, he said, the person will catch on to a scam before the dollar amount reaches the thousands.
“These scammers are good, too,” Bristow added. “You’ve really got to do homework to trust someone. If you’re dealing with people on the internet and you’ve neven met them, you better do some background checking on them.”
Michaela Broyles: 843-626-0281, @MichaelaBroyles