Romance scams increasing in United States with Long Island mom among those tricked

SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY — A 38-year-old mother of two was in the middle of a divorce when she said an intriguing man hit her up on Facebook.

“He was saying how he found my picture to be beautiful,” Heather said. “He told me he had a great job. He had a lot of money.”

Heather, whose last name has not been included to protect her privacy, cleans houses to make ends meet, so perhaps she was looking for a way to be cared for. The man calling himself “Smith James Quincy” seemed to fit the bill. He also looked like her ex-husband.

“He’s a diamond and gold miner,” Heather told PIX11. “What girl doesn’t love gold and diamonds?”

But within several weeks of meeting Heather online, Quincy was asking her for money to help him get past customs in China.

“He said his credit cards and currency wouldn’t work in the country,” Heather said, telling us she was skeptical at first.

But Heather got reeled in. Quincy kept saying he loved her and that his mother was sick with cancer.

“I thought this was real,” Heather said, as she made the decision to wire $300 to Quincy’s “agent” in Nigeria by way of Western Union. But many more requests for money followed in increments of $100, $300, $200.

“Before you knew it, it’s like $12 thousand,” Heather said with some regret.

When Heather contacted us, she still seemed unwilling to believe that she was the victim of a con man, even though her 11-year-old daughter, Daisy, was fairly certain about it.

“He looks like a scam artist,” Daisy said, as she eyed Quincy’s photo on the computer. “He’s taking money, he’s a millionaire, he shouldn’t need money.”

Daisy’s mother is certainly not the first woman to fall for a scam like this.

The FBI said its office received more than 15 thousand complaints in 2016 about romance scammers. That’s a 20 percent increase from 2015. The Huffington Post reported 82 percent of victims are female and the ones who actually reported the crimes were out a combined $230 million dollars in 2016.

“I’m sick to my stomach over it,” Heather said. She noted the money could have gone toward, “my children, bills, my car, a new place!” Heather is now living with her parents.

On occasion, scammers operating out of Nigeria get caught—and prosecuted. But most of the money is never recovered.

“Quincy” claimed he was facetiming Heather, at one point, from a Homeland Security compound in Bohemia, Long Island—claiming he needed another $230 in attorney’s fees to get out so he could meet her near MacArthur Airport.

The image showed sand on the road, almost like a beach town, and there doesn’t seem to be any sand in that section of Suffolk County.