Looking for love and winding up broke. Americans lost a staggering $1.3 billion to romance scams last year.
The Federal Trade commission or FTC reports a nearly 80% increase in romance scams since 2020. It’s one of the most common and costly scams targeting Americans right now.
More than 300 million people turned to the internet to find their perfect match in 2022. One woman from Orange County was one of them. She asked us not to reveal her identity for privacy reasons.
Last summer, she met a man who claimed to live in New York, and ran a successful furniture company. In his online bio, the man called himself Allen Bassam he said he was a “mature, stable and gentlemanly.” The two met on a dating website called Luxy. The app claimed to be a place to “meet rich, successful, and attractive millionaires in (an) upscale community.”
On its website, Luxy claims to verify income by having all users send a photo ID and a tax return. That appealed to her because she is a successful business woman.
“It was more supposed to be geared towards higher wealth value people and more educated people,” the woman said.
Almost immediately, she says her new online beau asked her to move to WhatsApp to communicate. That’s where the online romance escalated quickly.
“You know he says this is what we want to do, buy a house here, get married here and do this here,” she said.
They called each other “husband” and “wife” and there was even talk about children, a princess first, then their prince.
She said he laid it on thick, saying romantic things like “I feel so honored that I will spend my life loving you, protecting you, caring for you, taking care of you, and making you happy and joyful every day.”
They also talked business, and early on, he casually asked her if she had ever invested in bitcoin, boasting “I have done very well for myself”, and have a “masters in finance.” He assured her that he has been “investing in the bitcoin space for years.”
“He was very good at asking me questions and making me feel comfortable,” she said.
Within days, he had convinced her to wire thousands to legitimate crypto sites. Then, he told her she could make even more money on another platform. She says it seemed like she was making money hand over fist.
“It just would double, and triple and quadruple and I just invested more and more. I can only equate it to gambling,” she said
But, private investigator Al Ristuccia says the new platform was a scam site and her online lover was just pocketing her money.
“Once she left Gemini, once she left Bitcoin, once she left the so called legitimate crypto currency platforms, that was it. Everything else was just a fraud, someone’s imagination if you will,” said Al Ristuccia.
Overall, she wired him $2.3 million over a five month period.
The money is gone and so is the man she thought would be her life partner. As soon as she started asking him about her life savings, he stopped responding.
There were red flags. The man who claimed to be “Bassam” would never video chat with her and he always had excuses why he couldn’t meet in person. He only wanted to communicate by Whatsapp and a quick reverse image search of the photos he sent show a model from Bulgaria, not a furniture company CEO in New York.
“I think she was vulnerable, she wanted to find someone she could have a relationship with and she thought this person was it,” said Al Ristuccia, private investigator.
A spokesperson with Luxy tells KCAL News: “While we are not able to share personal user data with third parties, we did so with the victim in this case, since it felt like the right thing to do. Additionally, the profile she came in contact with was banned a few hours after its creation on our platform.”
The woman reported his profile and asked to speak with customer service, but Luxy stopped responding when they eventually threatened a lawsuit seeking damages. The site does have warnings about fraud and warns its users to beware of requests for money.