Date with deceit costs Austin woman thousands

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by KELI RABON / KVUE News and Photojournalist JOHN GIBSON

kvue.com

Posted on February 14, 2012 at 10:59 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 16 at 8:18 AM

Suzie Victor was searching for that special someone.

"I'd been divorced for six years and never really had a date. So I thought, 'Why not?'" Victor said.

She signed up with an online dating site called SeniorPeopleMeet.com and was contacted by a man who seemed to be her perfect mate. He claimed his name was Anthony Bedell, and sent her a few photos. He appeared to be a dark-haired, Italian-American man.

"I was interested in him, and he seemed to be interested in me," Victor said.

After a month of emails, instant messaging, and phone calls, Victor fell in love. So when Bedell told her his luggage had been stolen on a business flight to Nigeria, she agreed to help.

"He wanted me to send him, first of all, it was about $10,000. I said, 'I can't do that,' but I told him, 'I'll go to the bank and see if I can get a loan.' I got the loan the same day," Victor said.

She took out a $6,800 loan and wired the money to Nigeria. It became the first of more than a dozen money transfers.

"He'd been robbed twice. He was going hungry. He caught malaria in June," Victor said, rattling off some of the man's excuses.

In all, Victor wired her online love more than $30,000, without ever meeting him in person.

After a few online searches, KVUE Defenders found the man claiming to be Anthony Bedell. He had the same name and same story, but was using a different picture while asking other women across the country for money too.

The KVUE Defenders showed Victor our findings.

"Oh my gosh," Victor said. "I want him caught."

She gave her online love one last call, then handed over the phone. Investigative reporter Keli Rabon asked the man claiming to be Bedell what he was using Victor's money for, but the man hung up.

FBI Special Agent Erik Vasys says dating site scammers may sound sweet, but their real focus is your pocketbook.

"This is your classic Nigerian scam," Vasys said. "They're going to push your buttons one way or another -- through your heartstrings, your sympathy, or sometimes greed."

Vasys says victims rarely get their money back, because catching these con-men isn't easy.

"The FBI and other law enforcement have a bit of a difficulty tracking down these scammers, because most of them reside in countries where law enforcement and law and order may be lacking," Vasys said.

Victor was left with a broken heart and a $30,000 loss, but hopes her story keeps others from dating deceit.

"It was going to be different between he and I," she said. "He's a fraud."

A spokesperson for PeopleMedia, which owns SeniorPeopleMeet.com, issued the following statement:

"While these occurrences are rare, it makes them no less traumatic or upsetting when they do occur. OurTime.com’s members’ safety is our highest priority and something we take incredibly seriously. We have a dedicated team of employees who patrol the site for fraud and review each and every member profile and photo as they come in. In addition, safety and fraud protection tips are prominently placed and always accessible throughout the site. We do everything we can to protect our members, and encourage them to take the necessary precautions not just to protect themselves, but to help us fight against future fraud by using these tips and reporting any questionable behavior they observe."

You can follow investigative reporter Keli Rabon on her Facebook page here.

 

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