• Ocala woman says she lost $300K to online dating scammer

    By: Todd Ulrich , Jason Kelly

    Updated:

    OCALA, Fla. - Looking for love cost an Ocala woman $300,000.

    Now, she claims one of the biggest online dating sites isn't protecting customers.

    The Ocala woman said a scammer using a false profile stole her heart -- and her life savings.

    Action 9 consumer investigator Todd Ulrich found that many victims blame Match.com for giving scammers access to easy targets.

    Betty Davies said she met a man who shared her interests and offered to share her life.

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    "I really thought my prayers had been answered. And the deeper he charmed me, the deeper I fell," she said.

    Davies said she had joined Match.com thinking it was the biggest and safest online dating site.

    She said she received emails from someone claiming to be Donald Moore, a chemical engineer on assignment in Malaysia.

    Davies said the two had planned to meet in Atlanta, and a whirlwind romance took a very dark turn.

    "Someone has grabbed his briefcase, which has his wallet and all his credit cards in it," she said.

    Davies said Moore told her he needed cash.

    She said she hesitated, but she wired him $5,000 and wired him another $5,000 days later.

    Davies said Moore told her how much she meant to him.

    "'I think I want to marry you.' All the words a woman wants to hear," she said.

    Davies said emotion trumped common sense. She said scammers had cleaned out $300,000 of her retirement savings before she realized Moore didn't actually exist.

    She said she contacted police four years ago and later filled out federal complaints against Match.com for giving scammers easy access.

    A class-action lawsuit in Illinois claimed more than half of Match.com profiles are fake. It was dismissed by the courts last year.

    Ulrich found lots of Match.com customers making similar claims, many of whom lost a fortune.

    Earlier this year on ConsumerAffairs.com, 15 customers said they were targeted by scammers with fake profiles.

    A woman lost $100,000, and another woman lost $280,000.  A California woman claimed she was romanced and scammed out of $500,000.

    David McClellan runs SocialCatfish.com, a website that helps verify information, such as images, email addresses, phone numbers and online profiles.

    The site also offers a romance scam victims support Facebook group.

    "They use a lot of the same descriptions in their profiles," McClellan said.

    He said the technology is available for Match.com and other sites to block scammers.

    "There's no doubt in my mind that they can do a lot more," McClellan said. "This is not rocket science."

    Match.com told Action 9 that it reviews each member profile to block addresses from high-alert countries and that it looks for red-flag language.

    The company said its customers must sign a pledge to not send cash, and it posts a scam warning on every page.

    Davies, who is battling breast cancer for a second time, said the money she lost could have paid for so much of her treatment.

    "I have no heart left because of this. I'm heartless. I really am," she said.

    Few romance scammers are arrested because many live outside of the country. Victims seldom recover their money.

    Match.com provided Action 9 the following statement:

    "At Match, the safety and well-being of our community is a top priority, and we take the issue of fraud very seriously. These scams are rare, but that doesn’t make them any less upsetting. Match has a dedicated team and sophisticated technology that patrols for fraud and reviews each and every member profile to block IP addresses from high-alert countries, stolen credit card numbers and red flag language in profiles. But the bottom line is that users should never ever send money to someone you haven't met in person and report the individual who asks you to do so. Those two steps will stop almost every scam in its tracks and help protect the next potential victim."

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