Woman scammed out of $273K by fake internet boyfriend: 'I fell in love with him quickly'

Elise Solé
A California woman was scammed out of $273K by an internet romance scammer. (Photo: Getty Images)

A single woman was scammed out of $273K by a man posing as a U.S. Marine Corps Major on Match.com

Yin, a 56-year-old hairstylist from Oakland, Calif., told ABC 7 that she purchased a $107 six-month membership to Match.com and started talking to “David Perez” of San Fransisco, a divorced Marine Corps Major with a 10-year-old daughter.

They hadn’t met in person but Yin told ABC 7, “I fell in love with him quickly, you know. Like really deeply fall in love with him, trust in everything he said.”

Perez messaged her compliments such as, “Today was just an ordinary day until I thought of you and suddenly everything, everywhere became extraordinary.” However, he was worried their relationship could make friends “jealous,” so he asked Yin to keep it a secret. 

Five weeks into the online relationship, Perez told Yin he was being deployed on a clandestine mission to Afghanistan and he needed money deposited into a Chinese bank account. “I know you’re doing everything to help me, but I just want you to try your best,” Perez wrote to Yin, according to ABC 7


“I was so nervous shaking, I did not know what to do,” Yin told the station. “I told him, he said don’t worry, don’t worry, you know don’t cry.” 

After sending Perez a total sum of $273K, the couple planned to meet at a seafood restaurant in Oakland to celebrate Yin’s birthday. But Perez stood her up.

“He said he was in the restaurant waiting for me,” Yin told ABC 7. “I went there, I couldn’t see him, that’s why I said, you know, it’s probably a scam.” 

Chase Bank told ABC 7 that since Yin made the transactions willingly, their response is limited. Match.com deleted Perez’s profile and refunded her the cost of membership. Yin also filed a complaint with the FBI.

According to a study co-authored by Steve Baker, an international investigations specialist at the Better Business Bureau (BBB), romance scams have robbed victims of a reported $1 billion dollars in the United States and Canada since 2015. That figure is underestimated because most victims are too embarrassed to tell authorities.

“The initial reaction to victims isn’t sympathetic, however, their common denominator is only a strong belief in true love,” Baker tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Romance scammers have a routine agenda, learned from purchasing instructional guides for how to gain one’s trust and off-set suspicions. “You can even purchase a six-month supply of fake emails to send victims,” Baker tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Posing as members of the military is common because the role suggests that a person has strong moral values. In the BBB study, Chris Grey, of the USA Criminal Investigation Command in Quantico, Virginia, said scammers use photos of either killed or living servicemen. His department established a website to help daters notice red flags about their “soldier” partners. 

Once a victim is hooked, the scammer suggests communicating over private email. There, a grooming procedure starts, and daters are slowly isolated from their support networks. “There’s a lot of talk about marriage and encouragement to avoid doubters of the relationship,” Baker tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Then, after several months of contact, the imminent emergency arises. The BBB study found that medical emergencies, business-related problems, or expensive plane tickets to meet in person are typical explanations for why scammers need money, with false promises of repayment. The money is usually transferred through companies like Western Union.

Since most scammers are overseas, primarily in places such as Nigeria or Ghana, they can be hard to catch and prosecute, says Baker, due to challenging extradition processes.

And the disgrace and emotional devastation that victims feel keeps them quiet, says Baker. “But victims need support — there’s a lot to recover from.”

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