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Ask Ellie: 'Romance scammers' can cost you your house, savings and dignity

Dear Readers: Following are very concerned responses regarding the woman, 69, who’s considering buying a house for an online “lover” she’s never met (April 5): Reader 1: This is a scam and she’ll likely lose everything.
Advice columnist Ellie
Ellie

Advice columnist EllieDear Readers: Following are very concerned responses regarding the woman, 69, who’s considering buying a house for an online “lover” she’s never met (April 5):

Reader 1: This is a scam and she’ll likely lose everything.

My sister was similarly taken despite that her family/friends/ lawyer/banker told her that it wasn’t real. She lost her house, her lifesavings, and her dignity to a man who, by phone, said he “loved” her.

He was an “antique importer” claiming he had to be in Europe to clear customs with furniture, some gold bars and silver ingots. (I tracked his phone to a call centre in B.C. and his U.S. home address was a storage locker in Ohio).

He too had a family – a daughter had been “killed” recently in a car accident and he had a granddaughter who adored him. He asked my sister to find a nice place for them to live and told her she had a $3 million “budget.”

She signed for and deposited money on a $1.5 million penthouse in her name and barely got out of the deal without losing everything, then broke off with the man.

He resumed contact and promised they’d build a dream house as soon as he got his $12 million offshore account “unlocked” – he showed her a fake site with her name on this “account.”

He convinced her to sell her house and furniture and move into a motel to wait for him to arrive from Europe and send him money to expedite the customs process by transferring the proceeds into various accounts under various names at different banks.

She has just finally discharged her bankruptcy after accumulating over $40,000 in debt while “waiting.”

If this man who “loves” you cannot make an effort to see you as soon as it’s safe to do so — don’t respond — don’t text — don’t email — If he’s truly who he says he is he’ll prove it by at least showing his face — something my sister never saw in the nearly two years her scammer stole from her.”

Reader 2: “I appreciated your response about the woman’s online relationship. It reeks of scamming. And you’re correct in saying that there are so many red flags - e.g., his out-of-country work, having a child, 15, yet the letter-writer has never seen him or his child in person.

He claims that God put them together. No, he searched her out online, God had nothing to do with it.

The author at 69 years of age needs to care financially for herself first and foremost. She needs to keep her life simple and live as she has done until she finds out more either way.

These scammers are quite happy to steal you out of house and home. If he starts asking for money for healthcare, his daughter, his workplace, etc.

It’s all part of a bigger scam. A similar situation happened to my cousin and she lost her house.

It sounds too good to be true and I think she knows this as well… hence her letter to you.”

Ellie: “Romance scammers” taking advantage of older women through an online connection, then requesting money for various reasons, have become an entrenched danger to women living on their own.

As a New York Times story noted last year, these con artists can now find victims on any social media platform — Facebook, Instagram, even games like Words with Friends!

Feedback regarding the woman, living with her sister and not visiting their health-compromised parents, whose boyfriend wants to finally spend a weekend together (April 5):

Reader: Is a weekend of “fun” worth several lives? How would it feel if her sister, her boyfriend, his parents and/or her parents succumb to COVID?

It’s one thing if she gets it and dies, but how would she feel if someone close dies? The new variants are going after the younger people, are more easily transmitted and are more deadly. The vaccines seem to work to reduce effects, but the jury is still out regarding if they all prevent/inhibit transmission.

“Over the past year every time I heard about a mass gathering, then two weeks later I then heard about a mass outbreak.

“If the dating couple are right for each other, this time apart will actually strengthen their relationship. There will definitely be further challenges ahead.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

End contact with online scammers who profess “love” that can cost your home, your savings, and your dignity.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.