71-year-old man loses $80K in romance scam by overseas con artist

INDIANAPOLIS -- A 71-year-old man looking for a relationship wound up losing tens of thousands of dollars to a con artist after falling prey to an online romance scam, according to police.

After meeting a stranger on Facebook, the Indianapolis man developed a nine-month friendship with someone in Germany, only to realize he’d fallen victim to what police say is one of the most common cons in the country.

The victim told police that, all told, he wired $80,000 to the social media scammer.

“We think there’s in the neighborhood of a million people across the country annually that might be taken by this scam,” said Tim Maniscalo with the Better Business Bureau.

Preying on the man's desire to meet the person he had been chatting with online, the crook convinced him to send transportation funds for food, hotels and fees, according to a police report. Over nine months, the victim wired money in increments of $2,000, $5,000 and $10,000.

“The requests for money just never stop. There is another excuse and another excuse why you have to send them money. That adds up. You can lose quite a bit of money on a romance scam,” said Maniscalo.

A report by the Better Business Bureau shows romance scams are the most risky scams for people over the age of 55.

“We see mostly people in the 50s, 60s and 70s that fall for this scam. They may have lost their partner in life. They’re feeling lonely and scammers prey on that emotion,” said Maniscalo.

The BBB also estimates that, on average, romance scams result in a higher loss of money to victims than any other scam, but there is always one major red flag.

“If someone asks you for money and you’ve never met that person, that’s a real tip off,” said Maniscalo.

The 71-year-old victim did not want to go on camera because he said he was too embarrassed. In fact, the BBB thinks romance crimes are often not reported for that very reason.