KUSA - I am a happily married woman, so how did I end up with an online boyfriend?
Over the last few months, I've heard from women who have lost money through online romance scams. Unless you've lived it, it's hard to understand why you would send thousands of dollars overseas to someone they've never even seen before. I also realized these crooks weren't just trolling for victims on dating sites. They were using regular social media sites, as well. In fact, they were even trying to casually pull me in with "hi!" messages on my Facebook account.
After a couple of "Hi" messages, Kelvin Mike messages me, "How are u doing my friend hope u are feeling fine." Then he progresses from friendship to a marriage proposal in a few short hours. Here's some of our first day chat:
April 19, 2013 at 9:31 am
BTW, I would like to see more pictures of you. Do you have any?
April 19, 2013 at 9:34 am
Ok no problem have not be there before I will give u more of my picture very soon have u agreed to be my wife
April 19, 2013 at 9:40 am
I can't marry anyone I don't know.
April 19, 2013 at 9:44 am
But u can marry who u love and the person that have feeling for u
April 19, 2013 at 9:59 am
I agree you should marry who you love, but I don't know what to say. Marriage is a serious commitment. Why would you ask me so quickly? We just started talking today. It makes me feel a little uncomfortable.
April 19, 2013 at 10:03 am
I can keep it any more have been dreaming about you before I really love u from my heart
Within the first week or so he told me he had traveled from California to South Africa, then Nigeria on business. He said he was in the oil business, and he was trying to buy a gold company. He wanted to buy me a private plane.
I remember asking my producer, "Who would fall for this?"
My skeptical (and married) mind couldn't grasp how someone with such bad grammar and cheesy lines could steal a woman's heart and her money. That's when I sought out a dating coach to explain how scam artists can reel in unsuspecting, single women. She said it's the compliments, pet names, and the attention. This works especially well on women who haven't felt desired in a while. Everyone wants to be loved. This I understood.
Through a Google reverse image search, I found websites saying the same pictures Kelvin Mike used were being used to perpetrate online dating scams. I was able to use background checks to trace a possible real guy in the photos to a real New York businessman - more on him later. However, I could never verify that Kelvin Mike's personal information matched any real person.
Even though I knew he was a fake, I kept talking to Kelvin Mike. He wanted to chat online every day, for hours a day. When I would say goodnight, he would beg me to stay online longer. He called me "love" or "cute" and asked me about my dreams. He sent me poetry, claiming it was his own, although I knew it had been cut-and-pasted from famous poets. We kept communicating for a month. We exchanged more than 3,000 messages. That's 100 a day. I admit it does create a powerful illusion. By the end, I had to remind myself that the real person typing the chat is nothing like the guy in the photos.
Mike interspersed his romance with a lot of other personal questions like my birthday, age, income, bank balance, parents, and phone number. I worried these could be used against me later in an identity-theft crime. I tried to avoid answering some of those questions. Mike became pretty pushy in wanting me to give him a response. As a journalist, I had to be truthful, but I admit I was also vague. I never told him I loved him or wanted to spend my life with him. I did say I wanted to meet him in person.
After three weeks, Mike said he could not visit me in Denver until he finished his purchase of a Nigerian Gold Company, but he needed help to raise the last few million dollars. He wanted to know if I could help him with a little money:
May 6, 2013 at 5:37 am
What do you want me to do?
May 6, 2013 at 5:38 am
Can you help me with little money
May 6, 2013 at 5:38 am
How much money?
May 6, 2013 at 5:39 am
How much did you have now to help me
May 6, 2013 at 5:40 am
I don't have 17 million pounds.
May 6, 2013 at 5:41 am
How much did you have maybe if I beg the president he can collect it
May 6, 2013 at 5:41 am
I have some money. But I can't access all I have right now.
May 6, 2013 at 5:42 am
Why now did you want me to lose this company
Kelvin Mike even pretended to have the president of Nigeria chat through Facebook, in an effort to convince me I was making a sound investment. After a few days, I flat out declined.
Mike then came up with another, less pricey financial request. He needed $3,000 to make flight reservations to come visit me in Denver, but he needed to come home soon so he could wrap up business matters. He gave me instructions to go to Western Union and send the money to a Nigerian business partner named Ibrahim Ekerin. I did send 50 bucks. Mike later denied he and Ibrahim are the same person. Just before my stories aired, Mike told me he would tell me the truth in an email. I am still waiting for that email.
As for the real New York business man who is depicted in the pictures. Turns out he was also looking for love. After I contacted him about this story, he sent me an email with the subject line: Fate. He said I was attractive, and he asked was I married?
Victims of online romance scams can file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
Western Union has created a Consumer Protection Centerto notify people when not to wire money.