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Los Gatos Woman Loses $200K in Internet Dating Scam

JDate.com contact swindles longtime resident out of thousands of dollars through money transfers to banks in China, police say.

In May of this year, a Los Gatos woman saw a man’s profile on the premier Jewish singles community online dating site, JDate.com and contacted him.

An Internet dating relationship ensued, according to Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police and during the next few months they had online and telephone conversations, but never met in person. 

In June, however, the man asked the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, for money to help him pay fees for a business venture in China.

She agreed and wired $10,000 to a bank in China. Later in June, throughout July and into August, the suspect made six more requests for financial help with his business, said Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Sgt. spokesman Kerry Harris.

The man claimed that when his business was concluded, he would meet and be with the woman.

Each time the woman wired money to banks in China with fund transfers totaling $202,000, according to Harris.

In August, when the suspect asked for an additional $83,000, the woman became suspicious and declined to send the money, Harris said. 

Now police are investigating the case and calling it an Internet dating scam.

Typically, in fraud cases like this, the money was most likely transferred almost immediately from the original bank in China to another bank, probably in another country, making the recovery of funds nearly impossible, Harris said.

In some areas of the world, “boiler room” operations of criminal scammers work full-time on computers and telephones, preying on people’s innocence and trust, and stealing millions of dollars every year, he added.

Harris offered the following safety tips for Internet dating:

  • Don’t pursue a long-distance relationship with a stranger online. Most scammers target victims outside their areas to avoid being caught or prosecuted.
  • Never reveal personal data to someone until you meet face-to-face and develop a level of trust. While it’s tempting to share every detail of your life with a person you think you could be in love with, that’s exactly what the scammer is counting on.
  • Pay attention to language. Many overseas scammers do not have a  good command of the English language, so should be considered a “red flag”
  • Use search engines to check out suitors. Cut and paste an e-mail from the online date into Google. The person’s name or message wording may come up on one of the several websites devoted to romance scams.
  • Be suspicious if someone wants to immediately start communicating through IM and e-mail. They may want access to your computer in order to steal information.
  • Be suspicious of someone who claims to be a soldier. There are an increasing number of scams in which con artists take photos of soldiers from social networking sites and then pretend to be trustworthy members of the military. They’ll ask potential dates for money to buy special papers they claim are needed to come home or talk to family.
  • Don’t open attachments from a stranger. If someone sends you a photo in an attachment and you open it, you may have unwittingly allowed a virus to infect your computer.
  • Don’t fall for a sob story. Many scammers claim to have lost a spouse, child, or parent in an accident or say they have a relative who is very ill. Another common ploy, is that your suitor is at the airport on his way to visit you, but his credit card has been declined.
  • Talk to your date by telephone as soon as possible. Someone who sounds plausible online may be an obvious fraud on the phone.
  • Check online sites dedicated to dating and romance scams. If your date has conned others, he may show up there.
  • Report any suspicious behavior or fraud to the Federal Trade Commission or to your local police department.
  • Never wire money to a stranger. Never.
Lynne Bryant, CS September 17, 2012 at 08:42 PM
It seems logical not to give money to someone you don't know well; in fact, it can be difficult to loan money to people you do know very well. This is a sad story, but hopefully, those who read it will learn from it.
Brian Hickman September 17, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Stories like this make me wish "caning" was a punishment option in the U.S. While I think I would have become suspicious long before I hit $200K, she wouldn't be the first person to act imprudently when she thought she had met her true love. I just can't imaging how devastating this would be, and how hard it will now be for her to trust anyone.
Jim Van Camp September 17, 2012 at 09:34 PM
An internet dating relationship ensued, and they never met? How many months of on-line romance? Ladies and gentleman, there are predators out there with clever designs on your money. Even person-to-person relationships should be thought about slowly and cautiously.
AR September 17, 2012 at 10:07 PM
it would seem the best they can do is try this individual in absentia under US law, which a stretch as it is unlikely she even knows his real name. if he is a seasoned scammer, then he used TOR or another anonymizing service such as a proxy to cover his tracks online. LGMS police are almost certainly wasting their time trying to locate him, the best they can hope for is to offer evidence for a larger fraud investigation directed by the FBI or Interpol, who know the laws regarding international wire transfers better also, as far as i know, she is actually in violation of US tax code given the amount of her gift. it would be unfortunate if she was further penalized, but it is a possibility. people might be surprised to learn that they cannot just give large amounts of money to someone else without a tax implication
Jeanne Rajabzadeh September 17, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Sad story, and unfortunately she would not be the first or the last to fall for this scam. Same type of scam is used on elder citizens as well.
Mckenna Smith September 17, 2012 at 10:48 PM
What a horrible experience for this poor woman.
Larry Arzie September 17, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Lonely ,and vulnerable. If you know someone like this, befriend them.
Dyan Chan September 17, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Larry, I hope/assume that you mean befriend them so they will not be so lonely and vulnerable to unethical predators!
Irene Aida Garza-Ortiz September 18, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Anybody that asks for $$, especially a Big Amount even if you know them is a HUGE RED FLAG!!! I don't do the internet Dating at all! I did for one year, & every Dude that would want to get to know me. Never read my PROFILE PAGE! I did the Math, & I'm so DONE! I'm very involved with Venture Christian Church, & in a Small/Support Group. And in all honesty, I'm quite content being Single. If I am to re-marry, it will happen. But I'm most certainly not looking for it....Life is too short! I am enjoying my Life day to day! LOVE IT!
Brad Kava (Editor) September 18, 2012 at 06:17 AM
SO, it was the last $83,000 that was the tip off...man, I wish I had benefactors like this...Anyone want to invest $200K in a nice guy? Drop it in my paypal.
Gopal Das September 18, 2012 at 02:07 PM
I think everybody should check out the Scam Detector app. I believe they're online as well.

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