BALTIMORE — A Maryland woman is hoping to recover tens of thousands of dollars she sent to a man she met on a dating site.
She didn’t want to be identified, but she wants to know about the man who stole her heart and her money. He said his name was Patrick Brown.
“I just wanted company, that’s all. A friend,” the woman said.
She ran into Brown on OurTime, an online dating site for singles over 50.
“We were talking every day, every night,” she said.
He claimed to be a widowed engineer.
“He said he’s been married to his wife for 34 years, of course that’s going to get my attention. I said, ‘Oh he knows how to stay in a relationship, 34 years’,” he said. she stated.
And he had been called to Egypt to work on a project.
“He said that I had accepted this project without really thinking about all that it involved. I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, “I have to buy tools and the company promised me they would take care of it, but they don’t. He said I really needed a loan. I said, ‘Why don’t you get a loan?’ I didn’t think he was talking about me,” the woman recalled.
She waited a month, then sent him $17,000. He replied that he also needed help with his rent.
“I said, ‘Pay your rent? I can’t take care of you and me too. He said, ‘I just need you to help me with this project. I’ll give you 40% of my income and will reimburse you when the project is complete,” the woman said.
For about a year, she sent him monthly allowances. In total, the woman said she sent Brown $94,330.
“How did you send him the money?” ” request WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii.
“It was Bitcoin. I had never heard of it, I had never dealt with this machine, it was he who told me how to do it,” replied the woman.
FBI Baltimore Supervisory Special Agent Keith Custer said romance scams operate like business ventures.
“We’ve seen losses in the seven figures,” Custer added. “A lower level group that makes initial contacts to bait the hook and once a victim is identified, someone with more experience working or shutting down an individual will step in.”
He said they usually work with multiple people at once and use psychology to influence their victims.
“They’re very adept at identifying levers that might move a person, whether it’s hope, love, greed, or fear, and then they manipulate that,” Custer said.
There are signs the woman wishes she hadn’t ignored. She spotted inconsistencies in her story and became skeptical when Brown made excuses for not being able to meet in person or via video chat.
“I started having so many doubts about this guy,” she said.
But she didn’t listen to her instincts until it was too late. Brown stopped responding to his messages.
The woman said it was her first and last interaction on a dating site.
“Once a person starts asking for money, just end the relationship,” she recommended.
Custer added that many of the groups committing these scams are in other countries, making it harder for the FBI to shut them down.
In addition, cryptocurrency is irreversible. The FBI has had some success in recovering funds when immediately notified, but many victims do not realize they have been scammed for weeks, months, or even years.
When interacting with someone online, search for the person’s name and see if their photo is used on other sites under different profiles.
If you are a victim of this scam, report it to your local FBI office and to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.