A 64-year-old woman has opened up about how she was swindled out of $100,000 after falling for a man she’d never met.
Patricia Meister, from Queensland, struck up an online relationship with who she though was a dashing middle-aged businessman after he sent her a friend request on Facebook in 2015.
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, the woman revealed the moment she fell head over heels in love, before discovering her Italian lover named ‘Carlos’ was a Nigerian fraudster.
Ms Meister said the man seemed keen to share every aspect of his life with her when he messaged her every single day.
‘I’d never been on dating websites, and I only used Facebook for business. So when I got the friend request, I thought it couldn’t do any harm, can it?,’ she said.
‘I guess at the time, I was going through a period in my life where I felt isolated. I’d been single for a while and I’d never been on dating sites.
‘We started chatting. He was charming, smart and educated. He was very good with English and he was very romantic. I was very much in love with him at one stage.’
She said the man who claimed he was based in Brisbane had told her he was working in interior design and his heritage was Italian and Scottish.
The pair exchanged messages on a daily basis before he started calling her to have phone conversations.
‘When I first spoke to him, I heard his voice but he had a different accent to what I’d expected. I remember thinking “what is that accent?” I couldn’t place his accent.
‘I wasn’t familiar with his accent at the time, but thinking about it now, he was definitely African… He was Nigerian.’
Despite casting some doubts on him, Ms Meister continued speaking to him as the weeks passed.
Within eight weeks into their relationship, ‘Carlos’ asked her if she could lend him $600 because his credit card wouldn’t work when he was in Malaysia for a project.
‘It didn’t feel right but I thought “well, it’s not a huge amount of money to lose”. It wasn’t a huge request so I did a wire transfer to him,’ she recalled.
‘A part of me thought it was wrong so I questioned him, saying “you’re a businessman, your credit card should work…” His story didn’t add up.’
But his request for money didn’t end there. He would make up a different excuse each time he asked her for money.
‘Carlos’ was planning a trip home to Brisbane when his goods were held up in Malaysian customs. And so he needed a payment to retrieve them.
‘The first amount I sent him was $7,000. When he went to get the money, he told me he needed another $7,000,’ she recalled.
‘Everything he said was backed up by “documents” – and there was always a lawyer in the background when we spoke over the phone.
‘When he tried to pay me back, he said his bank couldn’t do the large international transfer so he arranged for a courier to deliver the cash instead.’
Ms Meister said she was given a link to a website with a ‘tracking sheet’, in which she kept a close eye on the parcel’s movement.
But when the parcel reached Kuala Lumpur airport, there was a $25,000 fee to let the cash leave the country.
‘Carlos had listed my business address on the documents so I was worried. I thought, “God, there’s a brief case full of money with my name on it”,’ she said.
‘By that time, I thought it might look suspicious if I let my money in my name sit there, I was kind of thinking “well I’ve got to pay this money to get my money back”.
She made the big payment but when the parcel got to Melbourne airport, she was hit with another fee.
‘I pretty much paid it. Money was getting hard to find. He pretty much picked up the last amount of my money,’ she said.
On the day she was scheduled to supposedly get the parcel with the money she’d been promised, she received a phone call.
‘I got a phone call from someone saying Carlos and his lawyer had been in a serious car accident so they needed money for medical expenses,’ she recalled.
‘My stomach dropped to my shoes. I knew at that point, I’d been scammed.’
She didn’t pay for their medical fees – and the pair stopped talking for about a week.
‘He then tried to request more money to cover his medical fees but at that point, I had gone through my last dollar,’ she said.
‘I couldn’t pay him anymore and I even told him I wasn’t going to send him any more money. Shortly after that, he made a “miraculous recovery” but I’d stopped talking to him by then.’
Ms Meister even tried to report the incident to police but there was nothing they could do after she was conned out of $100,000 in total.
And two months later, she received a text message from Carlos, saying: ‘This is all a terrible misunderstanding.’
Without a second thought, Ms Meister fired back: ‘You’re a scammer’.
‘After I accused him of being a scammer, he ended our conversation with: “Catch me if you can, my dear”,’ she recalled.
Ms Meister said she eventually found a support group called Romance Scams Now where women share similar tales of their ordeals.
‘I used to hear about the TV stars who were scammed and remembered thinking “how can you send money to someone like that?”,’ she recalled.
‘I think I was sort of aware but I had no idea these things could be so complex or how well developed they are. It’s a worldwide business, it’s very difficult to catch them because they’re sitting behind a computer.
‘People think you’re stupid but they’re not walking in our shoes. It’s not a matter of being stupid. Even the most intelligent, educated women are getting scammed.
‘I know I’ll never get my money back but all you can do is raise awareness. There’s a lot of lonely people out there, the dating websites are riddled with scammers.’
Source: Daily Mail Australia