Online romance turns to nightmare
Updated On: Nov 21 2013 06:10:00 PM EST
Who doesn't like a little romance in her life?
Jacksonville resident Lisa Langston enjoyed every minute of her online relationship with who seemed like the perfect catch: A good-looking military man named Mike, who often sent her flowers, cards and a promise of marriage when he returned from overseas.
Their relationship grew so quickly over an 8-month period, Lisa was making wedding plans, ignoring her suspicions after Mike asked her for something very personal; her bank account number.
"At first I said no," Langston explained while shaking her head in disgust. "Then we started talking more, so I went ahead and gave it to him."
Mike's reason for wanting her account information was because of his own money problems.
Through instant messaging, he informed Langston he had deposited $2500 into her bank account and needed her to withdraw as much as she could from the bank, then send it to him.
Mike instructed Langston to send the rest of the money by Western Union, and told her she could have a little of the money for herself; payment for any inconvenience he may have caused.
"If only it were that easy," Langston sighed.
Langston was able to take out $200 from the bank, but days later the bank froze her account, warning her this was a scam.
When Mike didn't get his money, he was furious, not wanting to hear any of the explanation Langston tried to give him, she explained.
That's also when Mike's sweet text messages turned very ugly.
"He said, 'I bet you're gonna hang yourself when I'm done with you,'" Langston read from her phone full of messages from Mike.
What's worse; Mike posted nude photos of Langston on Facebook to punish her. Photos she sent to him when she thought their love was real.
As the text threats increased, Langston got scared and called police to report what had happened.
"Unfortunately, when someone is overseas committing this crime," Jacksonville Sheriff's Officer Melissa Bujeda explained. "There's not much follow the police can do to help you."
Turns out everything "Mike" had told Langston was a lie, including the photos he swiped from someone else off the internet.
"People just need to be aware that there are scammers out there," Bujeda warned. "Their only intention is not to fall in love with you; it's to scam you."
Bujeda shared with us some tell-tale red flags that should alert anyone that something isn't right about the person claiming to have fallen in love through a dating website.
She says steer clear if a person asks for money, particularly through Western Union which can't be traced.
Bujeda also suggests thinking twice when the person pursuing you online wants more personal messaging.
Bujeda said, "If they have bad intentions, they're going to want to get off that online dating site, so none of the conversations can be tracked, so if you do happen to report it, they can keep their account on line."
Bujeda says a third red flag is the photo of themselves they send to you.
"A lot of times the scammer will send you a picture and it looks like some model out of a magazine that blows you away," Bujeda explained. "Unfortunately, it's not what that person looks like, even if they send you multiple photos as proof."
Langston is paying for her mistake, two-fold. She's always looking over her shoulder, wondering if Mike will someday show up. She's also stuck paying her bank back more than $400 in fees, she says the bank incurred while investigating the fraud.
Langston knows none of this would have happened, had she not given Mike her bank account number.
"I know I was a dummy," Langston admitted. "But I'm more concerned this guy may be out there doing this to someone else."
It's why she braved the embarrassment, hoping her feelings of hurt, anger and disappointment are a lesson to other women looking for love online.
Those nude pictures of Langston, no telling if or when they'll surface again.
Meanwhile, Bujeda says don't let what happened to Langston, discourage you from reporting a similar scam to police. Now that Langston has filed a police report, there's a record of it, and a paper trail has started, so the chances of catching this guy gets better every time someone reports it.
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