ORLANDO, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — A Florida woman is out $100,000 after she was tricked by an online dating scammer.
Rebecca D’Antonio said she didn’t think much of joining a dating site — and didn’t really plan to use it, either — until she met “Matthew.”
“A friend of mine had decided that she was going to try online dating,” said D’Antonio. “And she had never done [online dating] before. And since I hadn’t been in a relationship in a while I thought, ‘Well, this feels like a new thing. Let me give it a shot.”
She said prior to signing up for OkCupid, she had never heard of romance scams. She said she trusted the app because she has friends who met their significant others on there. She thought she was being careful by being open in her profile about herself and what she was looking for in a relationship.
“I’m going to basically put in my profile that this is the box that I come in. This is what I expect in a relationship and this is what I won’t put up with in a relationship,” she said.
What D’Antonio didn’t realize until it was too late, was that she believes she may have been giving scammers a “road map” for ways to take advantage of her. She disclosed that she loved children but is unable to have any of her own.
That’s when she virtually met Matthew.
He was, supposedly, a single father of a young son and his wife had passed away from cancer. He was originally from Australia but had made America his home.
D’Antonio said Matthew was having technical difficulties using the app so they began chatting on the phone, sending email and using Facebook Messenger.
The exchange of money came after Matthew said he was going on an international business and that he was bringing his son along. But, he claimed, the cards he was using for expenses were not being accepted.
D’Antonio said she thought it was strange someone would ask her for financial help so soon into a relationship but felt bad for Matthew’s son.
“The hook that got me was the fact that his son was with him. Was I going to be the horrible person that left a child in a bad situation?” she said.
Eventually, she found herself in the hole $100,000 and said she was contemplating suicide.
That’s when she confronted him.
“We were speaking on the phone. It was the last time that we spoke and the level of indifference and in his voice when he said this to me, I’ll never forget it. He said, ‘Well, you have to do what you have to do.’”
The next phase of D’Antonio’s nightmare would be bankruptcy.
She went through the process but was never able to get her money back from the scammers.
She did find out, however, who was behind the operation: a criminal gang based out of Nigeria.
“They have a playbook that they basically use to scam people,” D’Antonio said. “And so that’s what is believed to have happened that they were using this scam playbook to swindle me out of my money.”
She said she was able to get some of her money back from Western Union and MoneyGram.
“Western Union and MoneyGram, which are wiring conduits, were found to be at fault by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice and there have been class-action lawsuits. I am part of both class actions,” D’Antonio said. “The Western Union one is finished and the MoneyGram one is in process.”
In 2021 alone, approximately 24,000 victims across the United States reported losing about $1 billion to romance scams, according to the FBI. Experts and law enforcement believe the number is much higher due to people not wanting to report their loss.