A BRISBANE widow is on the verge of bankruptcy after being seduced out of $60,000 in successive online romance scams.
The 65-year-old first-time internet user was also new to dating when she went looking for love online last year.
After joining a meeting website for seniors, the woman was approached by a man claiming to be an English professor of physics who was building a robotic tractor.
The woman, who wants to be identified only as Shirley, quickly fell in love with “James” who over several months sent photos of himself, his children and his passport.
“I wanted to meet like-minded people,” she said.
“We were supposed to be married this Christmas. He asked if I could assist him with his project and I didn’t hesitate because we were a couple. I borrowed $20,000 on a personal loan and sent him the lot.”
Shirley, who had been on her own since she was widowed 10 years ago, also sent him $10,000 for airfares.
She has now been forced to postpone her retirement to pay off a large debt.
“James” turned out to be one of a gang of Nigerian scammers targeting dating sites.
While she was “dating” James, another gang member posing as a Texan pharmacist also pursued Shirley.
The second man, “Kay”, told her James was a Nigerian scammer, prompting Shirley to begin researching the internet.
Shirley discovered “James” had scammed $220,000 out of seven other women in the past year.
After checking out his business credentials on the internet, Shirley said she had felt comfortable about “Kay” and had feelings for him.
He, too, provided her with photos and documentation which later turned out to be fake.
“Eventually I maxed out five credit cards and eventually spent $30,000 on him. He said he was going to Nigeria to buy holistic medicine for his business,” she said.
Like many duped in these scams, a sympathetic Shirley sent money to “Kay” for car accidents, medical bills and business investments.
Detective Superintendent Brian Hay said the men worked in tandem as part of a scam which costs Queenslanders millions of dollars a year.
Det-Supt Hay, head of the Queensland police fraud squad, said there were several warning signs for the scams, including requests for cash transmissions, the cashing of travellers’ cheques and money to help pay a fee to release an inheritance.