By Staff Reports
Valentine’s Day is nearly here, but an Oregon man is singing the J. Geils Band hit “Love Stinks” after he lost $200,000 in an elaborate catfishing scam.
An unidentified fraudster stole a Florida woman’s identity to befriend the 80-year-old Oregon man through an online dating service, according to the Oregon Department of Insurance. The fraudster quickly persuaded him to send money for a business opportunity.
Over several months, the con artist convinced the elderly man that they were in a long-distance romantic relationship, and proposed an opportunity to support an art gallery in Florida.
The scammer pretended to seek investors to cover $5 million in transportation costs to ship a 500-ton marble lion sculpture from China. The con artist promised that investments would be returned plus a percentage of the profits from the sale of the sculpture.
The widower even received fabricated documents detailing the contract with the museum and bank statements. Relying on the documents and his romantic relationship, the victim made a series of payments over five months to various individuals and overseas bank accounts totaling more than $200,000.
The widower lost his entire investment and investigators have been unable to locate the scammer.
“Romance scams typically target older individuals, gain their trust, then ask for money through social media and dating websites,” said Andrew Stolfi, division administrator. “Unfortunately, victims often wire funds overseas or to third-party transfer agents, making it difficult to track the money and identify the con artist.”