Unsuspecting Fox Crossing woman hit hard by 'romance scam'
If you can help solve a crime, please contact the appropriate police agency. Duke Behnke/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
FOX CROSSING - At first, the man from California appeared to be a good match for the 55-year-old Fox Crossing woman. He was 47, owned a contracting company and recently moved to the U.S. from Sweden.
Their online relationship started in May. They communicated primarily by text because they had problems hearing each other over the phone. He planned to visit her in July, but canceled at the last minute because he had to fly to Amsterdam to take care of some “job site issues.”
Then he began asking for money.
First, he told the woman he needed $4,500 to get home from Amsterdam because all his money was tied up in investments. The woman sent $4,500 via Western Union to the man’s secretary in Pennsylvania, police said.
Then, she sent $2,000 via Money Gram after the man said his daughter was sick and needed medication. He again claimed all his money was invested and not available. She was instructed to send the money to a location in Nigeria.
That payment prompted the Fox Crossing woman to wonder if she was getting scammed. Over the next six weeks, she kept pushing him for information, but he resisted.
He did, however, ask her to send him $6,000 so he could get home. She initially declined, but changed her mind. She sent him $6,000 through her bank account, but — fortunately for her — she wrote down the wrong account number and the money never made it to her online boyfriend.
But he persisted, according to police.
He sent her a text message, saying he still needed the $6,000 — along with an additional $175,000 to help finish his company’s project in Amsterdam. Otherwise, he said, he would lose $3 million in investments.
It was then she realized she had fallen prey to the "romance scam."
The woman tried to get her $6,500 back, but it was gone forever.
Jason Weber, community liaison officer with the Fox Crossing Police Department, said he felt badly for the woman who was scammed.
“We can’t do a lot,” Weber said of the police department. “Once that money is sent, it is very difficult to track.”
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It isn’t the first time the romance scam has shown up in Fox Crossing — or elsewhere in the Fox Cities.
“We have had scams similar to this. People end up getting hooked on this and the other scams (because) they think with their heart and not their head,” he said. “The dating sites have many people looking for companionship and they fall into these scams as they get stringed along.”
Weber said police “try to make people aware of these scams and get them to slow down a bit and think.”
Susan Bach, regional director of the Better Business Bureau for Northeastern Wisconsin, said there are “red flags” that point to the romance scam.
“They can only connect online, not in person,” she said. “Every time you try to meet them, they can’t do it for whatever reason. They are very creative. They say they would like to meet you, but their car is broken. Or their mom is in the hospital and they are worried about paying a loan, so they ask you for money.”
“These people are very convincing,” Bach said. “They are professional con artists.”