Online Dating Fraud

By Julie Montanaro
November 8, 5pm

Online daters listen up! Leon County is now working its first case of Internet dating fraud. It's not a nerd pretending to be a knockout; it's serious and it's already cost a Tallahassee man $15,000.

Deputies say a Tallahassee man is out 15 grand after a woman, or someone pretending to be her, convinced him to cash money orders under the guise that she needed the money to return to America after getting stuck on a modeling gig in Nigeria.

"He evidently corresponded with her quite a bit," said SGT Rob Pace with LCSO's Financial Crimes Unit, "and she had sent the photos so he would know what she looked like and also promised to enter into a relationship with him when she returned to the United States."

Phyllis Eckhart says she's not at all surprised by the criminal case. She says she nearly fell for the same thing, considering sending her Nigerian suitor$ 1,800 for a plane ticket.

"We actually chatted for probably just a week when he started with 'I think I could love you, I think we have a future together, I want to come and see you, but I'm a little short on funds, could you loan me the money?'”

"I think that there's a lot of women who are lonely or men who are lonely and they want to be able to have contact and I also think it's very easy to lie over the Internet," said marriage and family therapist Dr. Kay Colvin-Guthrie.

Colvin-Guthrie cautions online daters to never give any monetary help or personal financial information to online suitors.

Leon County sheriff's deputies say the man who fell for this bogus beauty knows all too well why. Leon County sheriff's deputies suspect this victim is just the tip of the iceberg and many more are probably too embarrassed to come forward.