The “sweetheart scam” is one of the most widely used means of preying upon a victim for financial gain, but beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
A recent widower called WATE 6 On Your Side after he sent more than $1,000 overseas; sending the money to Africa believing his new girlfriend had gone there to buy products for her business.
It was a scam. A “sweetheart scam” that state officials have warned Tennesseans about before.
The illusion of love is the key factor in fulfilling the sweetheart scam. For this swindle to be successful, the scammer convinces his or her victim that they are in love and uses these emotions to milk money from the unsuspecting person.
It begins with chatting either over the internet or messaging one another and exchanging photos. Eventually, the scammer comes up with a story about how he or she has a major problem in their life which requires an outlay of money.
All this is orchestrated, like a fine scamming symphony.
One local man fell victim.
Terry Smith has been living alone for 6 months now, after his wife of 28 years, Connie, died in February of a heart attack. Shortly after her death, Smith received Instagram pictures from a “Donna Rogers” who claimed she had lost her husband not long ago.
Believing he had found someone with a “true heart,” they exchanged numbers and he was sent a series of text messages from “Donna Rogers.” Then, love notes.
“Donna” told Smith she had an online business and recently flew to Nigeria to pick up some goods for her business. She told Smith her bank wouldn’t work over there, so she asked him to wire her some money to help.
Being head over heels in love, Smith bought some money cards and went to Western Union – sending over $1,000 to a company in Nigeria.
“Donna” had claimed to be from East Tennessee; telling Smith she lived in Loudon and attended a church on Martel Road. Smith, called the church and the pastor told him they had never heard of her.
According to the Better Business Bureau of Greater East Tennessee, these sweetheart scams are nothing new.
“The sweetheart scams keep rolling and rolling, year after year,” said Tony Binkley, president of BBB of Greater East Tennessee, adding that many of the sweetheart scams often target people like Smith who have just lost a spouse.
The information is gained from obituaries in the news.
“They’re all cruel, but this one is playing on the heart,” Binkley says.
The messages to Smith continued for some time after he’d sent the money and realized he’d been had, but he says he’s no longer responding and will send no more money to the scammer.
“Yes, she got me,” Smith said.
Smith wanted to share his story as a warning to others who may receive a similar post or message.
These scammers will go to great lengths to pose as another person and know a lot about technology.
Be on guard, try to look beyond the superficial and never transfer or wire money to anyone especially if you’re communicating with someone overseas – whom you’ve never met in person.