Denver man learns online relationship was hoax

DENVER –The story seemed so real.

"I know there's a lot of stuff out there, but for some reason, this one seemed different than all the other ones," Michael Rivet said.

A beautiful blonde woman from Russia told Rivet she found him funny, charming, and genuine. For her, Rivet was someone to deeply connect with through an online dating website.

After two divorces left him single, Rivet was ready to believe every word.

"It was happy; it was all happy and funny. We made each other laugh," Rivet said. "I wasn't looking to get anything but just someone who was real, who was genuine."

Rivet said after six months of emailing, he and his girlfriend, Anastasija, decided to meet in the United States. All she needed was $422.

"When she said she was short that money, I thought it was my obligation to try, because I had the money," Rivet said.

Then, Anastasija reached out again, asking for more - this time either $2,800 cash or a bank statement showing the money exists. Without it, she claimed customs officials in Russia wouldn't let her on the plane.

"The amount that was required would take every penny I have," he said.

That's when Rivet called 9NEWS for help. With a quick Google image search, we found Anastasija's photo on another website under a different name: Oksana Titova.

"I'm not surprised," Rivet said with a deep, slow breath. "I kind of had it in the back of my mind."

César Hernández is a visiting law professor at the University of Denver specializing in the intersection of immigration and criminal law. He says real love over the internet isn't unheard of, but there are warning signs.

"I think asking for a specific amount of money is a red flag," he said. "I think delays in travel plans is a red flag."

Rivet fell victim to all of them.

"It was at a point where I didn't know and I would have sent everything I had," Rivet said.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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