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Romance scams popular way to find victims

A Parkland woman might have been a target of a scammer, but if so, she’s the one who came out a winner.

The woman, “April,” was on her Web site when a gentleman came a’callin’.

The man said he was looking for a nice woman to take care of him and his son. The man, “Tom,” said he had been divorced for 10 years and needed a woman who likes children.

“I can read from your background that you’re an intelligent and caring woman,” he wrote to the 57-year-old April.

The two corresponded and Tom, 47 told April that if something arrived at her door, she should accept it. Shortly after, she received a dozen white roses.

The next present that arrived was a big box of Russell Stover candies. April checked with the supplier. Tom had used his credit card, and payment cleared.

Tom said he was an import/export salesman who dealt in jewelry, gold and diamonds in California. The next present was a promise ring with 10 small diamonds in it. Their names were engraved on the inside.

 April brought it to be appraised.

“It is worth $750,” she said.

Tom promised to provide her with an engagement ring and wedding rings. Then he called to tell her he was overseas, buying items with cash. He called her several times, then told her he had run short of money. He said he was trying to have money transferred overseas from his uncle in the United States.

“He never asked me for money,” April said.

Meanwhile, April had begun to receive scam after scam e-mails. She accused Tom of sending them and he told her to ignore them.

Tom’s story seemed real enough, his e-mails and phone calls appeared legitimate, and his presents were authentic and paid for. But April was suspicious. She shared her story with a friend who said she thought he was a scammer, trying to set April up.

April confronted Tom and called him a scammer. He grew angry and she broke up with him. He blocked her from his e-mail account and April did the same on her MySpace.

“I asked him if he wanted his ring back, and he said no,” she explained.

April still does not know whether Tom was a legitimate suitor or was setting her up for a big financial fall. She continues to receive — and ignore — several scam e-mails each day, but is not sure whether is it a coincidence or if Tom is behind them.

She said she is not afraid, even though Tom has her address.

“I don’t believe he’d ever hurt me,” she said. “He told me I would be his queen.”

April may never know what the real story is behind Tom’s courtship. But she was wise to be skeptical. Romance scams are a popular way to take advantage of trusting men and women who are seeking someone to love. The scams often involve stories such as Tom’s overseas money crunch, which are designed to elicit emergency funds from the victim on the pretense that the money will be paid back or marriage is forthcoming.

Although some people do find successful relationships through the Internet, caution is required to protect oneself — even for adults.

Thanks go to April for sharing her story and reminding others to be careful of strangers, even when they come bearing gifts and promises of love.

The Daily Journal has made a commitment to keep readers abreast of scams that hit our area. If someone tries to make you the victim of a scam, call us at 431-2010 and tell us what happened. We will include your story in our scam alert series to prepare others who may find themselves in the same situation.

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