By Andre Jones
Greg Davis is one of the latest victims in what officials are calling a series of increasing “romance scams”, losing nearly $80,000 for “love”.
Davis, who works two jobs, found it hard to meet women. After deciding to try online dating, he immediately got results. “I met the girl on Match.com,” Davis told KHOU’s Tiffany Craig. According to Davis’ description, the woman posed as a highly attractive woman from Chicago, introducing herself as “Malikah.” Davis was immediately attracted and the attraction seemed mutual. “She pursued me, too, so I was like, ‘This is it,'” he explained his thought process. “This is how it works.”
Not long after they elevated their online romance to phone calls, email correspondence, and very provocative photos (which, upon further investigation, appear to belong to a Colombian porn star), Davis opened his email inbox to discover what appeared to be a will. It was Malikah, claiming that her father had passed away, left her some money overseas, and that she needed Davis to front some cash for shipping and taxes.
“It was increments of $5,000, $10,000,” Davis said. “It was also spent trying to pay for the fine that was on the money in storage.” By the time KHOU interviewed Davis, he had been sending “Malikah” money for two years. “I feel kind of stupid,” Davis embarrassingly admitted.
In the age of “Catfish”, many wonder how anyone can still be taken by such a scheme. Certified scam examiner Sgt. Josh Nowitz, of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office explained, “They’ll build up some sort of a relationship with this person through text through emails or sometimes even through Skype. They’ll actually employ actors and things like that and so they’ll build up the relationship before asking for favors.”
Though each romance scam case is unique, all end up with the scammer asking for money. “They put a million hooks in the water, and all they have to do is catch a couple to make it profitable for them,” Nowitz said. According to KHOU, the FBI reports that romance scams cost taxpayers a whopping $230 million in 2016, with KHOU reporting $16 million in losses coming from Texas alone.
Davis ended up draining his retirement, maxing out his credit cards, and taking out more than a dozen payday loans. After asking for proof of the inheritance, the scammers sent Davis a video of stacks of counterfeit $100 bills with his name stamped on them. “That’s not even close to being a currency, and so that’s when I knew the whole thing was all a mess,” Davis said.
“Make sure you’re actually face-to-face with that person you’re supposed to be dealing with, because the internet dating thing, you don’t know what you’re getting,” Davis advised.