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CARY, N.C. — Finding love cost a woman more than $70,000. After losing her life savings, she’s sharing her story to try and save others from the same emotional and financial heartbreak.
This scammer didn’t just act fast trying to get this woman’s money. He fostered a relationship with her for months, just long enough for her to let her guard down.
“How he did it, I don’t know but it all looked legitimate,” Jennifer Dennis said.
Dennis still can’t believe she lost her life savings to a man she met on online.
“I’m out all that money and I don’t think I’ll ever get it back and at 76, I don’t have a whole lot of future,” Dennis said.
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This all started when Dennis was living in Georgia and as a widow was looking for companionship. On Facebook, she met a man who went by Caleb.
“He was coming back to the states real soon, and he was wanting to settle in a new area because he had lost his wife,” she recalled.
In the online chats, Caleb claimed to be in Yemen — a doctor working for the Red Cross. During their months-long online relationship, Caleb proposed they buy a house in Cary, North Carolina so they could start their lives together in a new place.
A plan Dennis was open to since the pain of her late husband was everywhere.
“Everything about the house and the area reminded me of my husband, which was just heartbreaking,” Dennis said.
The deal would be that Caleb would pay $600,000 towards it, and she would pay the remaining $70,000 owed. Dennis thought it seemed like the perfect deal, so she wired $70,000 and then an additional $8,700 for other expenses.
She, along with her son Raymond, packed up everything they owned and drove to Cary thinking they’d move into the new home.
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“When I noticed that someone was still living in the house and knocked on the door, I automatically knew that it was a scam,” Raymond said. The owner of the home told them he had lived in the home for years and had no intention of ever selling.
Dennis contacted Caleb right away.
“He sent me a picture of him — (he had) supposedly been beat up. That was the last time I heard from him,” she said.
Scammed, in a new area and with all of her money gone.
“We didn’t have any place to go. We ended up in our car sleeping,” Dennis said.
SEE ALSO | Report shows dramatic increase in romance scams targeting older Americans
Eventually, a generous person from their church provided them with this camper to live in. Dennis is now sharing her story, hoping others looking for companionship online, don’t fall for the same romance scam she did.
“I think that it’s devastating for me, but I have my son, which has been a blessing. So some women are totally alone and they get scammed like that,” Dennis said.
Dennis is not alone as just last year more than $1.3 billion was lost in romance scams, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The big red flags with romance scams, all communication happens online and they give you a sob story. Also, anytime they ask for money, whether that be they want you to wire it, buy Bitcoin, or gift cards, it’s all a sure sign it’s a scam.