A woman explained how she lost $ 1 million through an online dating system by a man who claimed to be someone else – because people revealed losing thousands of dollars every year from scammers to romance.
Debby Montgomery Johnson, 60, explained to The Cut how she suppressed nearly $ 1 million between 2010 and 2012 after joining a Mormon online dating site.
The husband of the former paralegal of 26 years died suddenly in 2010 of a heart attack. Debby was deeply saddened by his death, but later she was convinced by friends to join an online dating site as soon as she was ready to date again.
Terrifying: Debby Montgomery Johnson, 60, revealed to The Cut how she ripped off nearly $ 1 million after meeting a man online through a Mormon dating site
& # 39; I had never heard of anyone being absorbed by an online romance, I had only heard the good things, & # 39; Debby, who also worked as a bank clerk and intelligence agency of the Air Force, told the publication. & # 39; So I went into it somewhat, trusting that what was going to happen would be good. & # 39;
The first series of matches on LDS Planet were busts until Debby came into contact with an international businessman from London who was also a widower.
Debby investigated the man and the company – allegedly working as a contractor in the hardwood tree business – and discovered that the company he worked for was legitimate.
& # 39; I called the company he said was a contractor, and they didn't know who he was, & # 39; Debby admitted. & # 39; But again, I didn't expect anyone to tell me the truth, so I thought he was an international contractor, maybe they don't have those guys on the company list. & # 39;
The man – named Eric Cole – explained that he had been living in Houston lately, but that he moved to Malaysia for work.
So the couple mainly communicated about Yahoo Chat for the next two years, and although they would make plans to meet, Eric would always shrink from work because of it.
Revealed: Debby decided to write a book about her experience to help other women endure a similar scam
Nevertheless, Debby said the two got along incredibly well – so it didn't seem completely out of the ordinary when Eric asked her for financial help from his company.
Debby initially told LDS Living, she was paying a strange payment of about $ 50 on behalf of Eric, because his foreign location meant that transferring money in the US was harder than normal.
Over time, however, Eric's payment requests began to rise – although Debby admits that she is not allowing herself to see anything out of the ordinary, especially since the two had come closer in the course of the months they had spoken, with Eric even introduced to his sister and his son via email.
& # 39; Eric became an important part of my life & # 39 ;, she explained to LDS Living. & # 39; He became part of my family. And so I did everything to support him.
& # 39; It was a really great adventure. The only asset we had at one point was where he had asked me for some money, and I really didn't feel like it, but I did it anyway. & # 39;
The first major check that Debby wrote was for $ 2,500.
& # 39; The next time he asked, it was because he got paid, but the money came here to the United States and he had to have a power of attorney for the banks in London, & # 39; Debby explained.
Eric used his supposed locations in London and Malaysia and his job as a contractor to convince Debby to lend him money here and there. There were also cases of medical expenses that convinced Debby to send more money.
& # 39; Now that I look back on it now, it was absurd, & # 39; Debby admitted to The Cut.
In the end, Debby gave the man nearly $ 1 million in money from both herself and even her parents – who were in their 80s. She didn't realize she had been scammed until he finally asked to video chat with her in 2012 – and confessed everything to her.
& # 39; For two years he said he couldn't skype, he couldn't make a video, and now he's showing me how to turn on the camera on Yahoo Chat, & # 39; Debby said.
Scammed: the man claimed he was from London, but flew internationally as a contractor. She dated him online two years ago before he discovered that he was polishing her
& # 39; I was sitting at my desk and looking at a photo I thought was on my screen, and this dark, dark-skinned young man is diving with a big smile on his face. & # 39;
Recalling Eric & # 39; s confession to LDS Living, she explained that she immediately wanted to see the proof of his lies: & I say: "You lie, you are sick, something is wrong."
& # 39; And then I said: & # 39; If that's really true, Eric, now you have to prove to me that this is a lie and a scam. & # 39; & # 39;
At that moment he revealed his face – nothing like the images she had seen of the man she believed was Eric Cole.
Debby went to the FBI to report the crime, but investigators couldn't do anything unless she was able to get Eric to the United States. The man told her that he actually lived in Nigeria, not London.
She finally decided to write a book entitled The Woman Behind the Smile to inform other women about the dangers of online dating.
& # 39; These guys are very well trained and they are good at their job, & # 39; Debby said.
Eric became part of my family. And so I did everything to support him.
& # 39; They've mastered the story. They are not amateurs, and it is a shame, because good people are financially, socially, emotionally abused and it is really tough. & # 39;
With Debby's situation, she got the gift of knowing that it was a scam because her husband knew the crime. But other people never get the same closure.
& # 39; Most victims, the man walks away and you never hear from him & she said. & # 39; If that had happened to me, I would have felt that my husband was dying again. & # 39;
Her goal for writing her book was to better inform people about the potential scammers in the online dating world and to help women feel comfortable sharing their own stories if they too lost money.
Debby & # 39; s story is not as unusual as you might think, as the Federal Trade Commission revealed that it received 21,000 reports in 2018 about romantics scams with an estimated loss of $ 143 million collectively from the victims.
The FTC stated in a report about the scam that people are often attracted by scammers who have made fake profiles with real images. This allows them to essentially raid the person & # 39; to believe they are real.
Fraudsters will then use the developed emotional bond with the person to get money out of them. Two of the main reasons scammers use to have money, the FTC reports, are for medical or travel expenses.
The plots become more extensive because scammers will convince their games that they cannot meet for various reasons, for example abroad or in the army. – and then they aim for the wallet.
In 2015, the median lost amount of a person was $ 2,600. But people over 70 lost the most to scammers with their median amount of $ 10,000, the FTC reports.