REED CITY — Police are warning about the dangers of online dating after a Reed City woman was financially scammed after entering an online relationship with a man from Africa, according to Reed City Police Sgt. Brian Koschmider.
A 76-year-old woman had reported being scammed out of just under $400 and having four cell phones opened under her name on Nov. 6, according to Koschmider.
According to Koschmider, the woman got to know the man over the course of four months during which he sent her flowers and acted like any other would in a relationship. However, after the four months, the man started to ask her for money which then progressed into purchasing and activating four cell phones under the woman’s account.
It was after the man did not pay her back, that the woman began to get suspicious. Upon red flags being raised, according to Kuschmider, the woman went to look up the man she was in a relationship with and he had disappeared.
“All of a sudden he did not exist,” said Koschmider. “He became a ghost.”
The four cell phones, being under the woman’s name, were sent to her address and were canceled and sent back after the man had vanished.
As to why the cellphones were not under the gentleman’s name, Koschmider said the man did not want anything attached to him.
“I don’t want to speculate, as we don’t know all the facts, but there is typically a reason someone would act this way,” said Koschmider. “It could be criminal. It might not be. A larger investigation would have to take place to get those answers.”
This case is not “necessarily a first for the department”, according to Koschmider.
“These things are usually money motivated,” he said. “The cell phone activation is what makes this unusual. But it is not uncommon, unfortunately, when someone is looking for companionship for that person to get taken advantage of.”
What often happens with these scams, said Koschmider, is the two people involved in the relationship meet for the first time and soon after one asks for money and then disappears once the money runs out.
To help in the prevention of more being scammed from an online relationship, Koschmider said people should make sure they meet the person face to face and are in a longterm relationship, for about six months to a year, before any money is given.
Koschmider also suggested that people not be afraid to do a background check and research a person to make sure things add up.
“Pay for an online background check. Knowing a person is who they say they are is a lot less than being scammed,” he said.
In addition to background checks, Koschmider said people can also search profiles using a search engine to see if anyone else has been scammed by a person and using White Pages to see if location and numbers match with the name given.
“With the internet, it is so easy to figure out if a person exists or not,” he said.
Overall, it is suggested that people be cautious when getting into any kind of online relationship, especially when a person is overseas.
“There is no shortage of people willing to manipulate to get what they want,” said Koschmider.
While the Reed City Police Department is looking into the case, with it being international, it is difficult for the local police to do much with an investigation.
“It is really hard to prosecute anyone overseas,” said Koschmider. “And the federal level has so much going on, they won’t investigate. They just don’t have the manpower. And in order for us to make any kind of headway, the man would have to be identified and he would have to be in Michigan.”