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Romance Scam: Facebook friend request goes sour

CINCINNATI (Rich Jaffe) -- The rise of social media offered a world of opportunity when it came to connecting with other people.

But with that opportunity also brought a need for caution and concern.  Facebook was very possibly the place where users needed that the most.  The problem with Facebook and many other social media connections was that they open individuals up to people all over the world.  It could be a blessing and a curse because unless it was someone a person already knew, it could be hard to tell who the other person is behind the screen.

A couple of months ago, Linda Bell got a friend request on Facebook, from a man dubbed, "Peter."  Peter appeared to be in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Linda said, "Starts out, 'Would you like to have a friendship?'  Certainly, I'd like to have a friendship.  Then it went a little bit more with, 'I love your smile. I love how kind you speak.'"

The Facebook friendship with Peter quickly spiraled out of control into phone calls and "I love you" emails.

Linda said, "He was so charming, he knew all the right things; liked to call me baby.  And with the British accent it was very hard to resist it."

A few weeks later Peter said he was going to Ghana, Africa for his cocoa bean business.  He sent Linda pictures and "documentation."

"And then one morning I get a phone call that he needs $200 for air time, in order to stay on the phone," Linda explained.  A couple of love letters and a week later, "At six o'clock in the morning I get a phone call, 'I'm in big trouble. I'm about to be deported. I need $500 for an airline ticket, I need an I-phone.'"

Linda told Peter she didn't have the money, so he tried a different approach telling her, "My banker has figured out a way to do this, send me your bank account information."

When Local 12 tried to call "Peter" his phone number turned out to be a Google voice mail box.  So he could be anywhere.  Ohio Attorney General, Mike DeWine, took a look at Peter's emails and said he thought it was a classic scam.

"I would want to meet someone before that happens, before I send some money.  The other thing I would say is I also would want to meet someone in a public place and I would want someone with me when I went there.  Scam artists can do this in many ways, they can lure you to some place, hit you over the head and at least take your money if they don't kill you," said DeWine.

Linda said she came forward with her story because she wanted other women to be aware that guys like "Peter" are out there.  Two years ago Linda's daughter died.  She thought Peter found her through a couple of grief support groups that she belonged to.

Both the attorney general and the FBI have units that specifically work on Internet scams like this one.  CLICK HERE to contact those offices or for more information.

Follow Rich Jaffe on Twitter @rajaffe and LIKE him on Facebook




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