In 2015, 64-year-old Patricia Meister was scammed online.
She accepted a Facebook friend request from someone who said he was a businessman based in Brisbane.
The pair talked online every day.
“I guess at the time, I was going through a period in my life where I felt isolated,” Patricia said. “I’d been single for a while and I’d never been on dating sites.”
About two months into talking, the man (who said his name was Carlos) started asking Patricia for money.
Patricia didn’t think much of it and agreed to send him some.
“It didn’t feel right but I thought, ‘Well, it’s not a huge amount of money to lose.’ It wasn’t a huge request so I did a wire transfer to him,” she explained.
But her new lover didn’t stop there. He continued asking for money and made up a plethora of excuses as to why his credit cards weren’t working.
Patricia then started sending him thousands of dollars.
He promised her that she’d get her money back, but the moment she received a call saying Carlos was in a terrible accident, she knew she had been scammed.
She had discovered that her Italian lover was really a Nigerian scam artist who preyed on women like her to get thousands of dollars.
“People think you’re stupid but they’re not walking in our shoes,” Patricia said.
“It’s not a matter of being stupid. Even the most intelligent, educated women are getting scammed,” she said.
While Patricia is out of her life savings, she’s now trying to help others who could be potential victims to being scammed on Facebook or other social media sites.
“I know I’ll never get my money back but all you can do is raise awareness,” she said. “There’s a lot of lonely people out there; the dating websites are riddled with scammers.”