Detailed by San Francisco ABC news affiliate KGO-TV, a 66-year-old San Jose divorcee was swindled out of $300,000 by a Nigerian man who used an online dating site profile as bait. Claiming to be an Irish citizen named David Holmes that worked on a Scottish oil rig, the man started talking to the divorcee through dating site ChristianMingle.com, a site that markets itself as “the online community created specifically for Christian singles looking to find friends, romance or marriage.” The relationship initially progressed from communication through the dating site to emails, text messages, flower deliveries and eventually phone calls.
Further along in the relationship, the conversation turned a need for money to pay off his daughter’s tuition. After those initial payments came through, the Nigerian man requested that the woman help fund his oil rig business. The scammer even went as far as setting up a fake business website to help legitimize the claim. According to authorities, the divorcee got her hands on $300,000 by pulling it out of her retirement account as well as refinancing her home.
By the time that someone in her life contacted the authorities, the woman had wired an additional $200,000 as a second loan to help the fake oil rig business. Fortunately, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office was able to move quickly and freeze the $200,000 transaction with the help of Turkish banking officials. In addition, Turkish authorities were able to arrest an associate of the Nigerian scammer at the bank in question. The Skype and email accounts used by “David Holmes” were traced back to a location in Nigeria.
Warning the public about the incident, Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourlard said “Don’t loan or invest money with anyone you have never met and only know from a dating website. It’s too easy to create a false identity, or steal someone else’s identity, and use it on an online dating service.” Regarding the remaining $300,000, Bourlard said that there’s barely a chance of tracking down the initial large payment and federal authorities won’t get involved for cases less than $1 million.