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She was single, her kids were grown and had lives of their own. “I don’t like the idea of not being able to help somebody if I can.”Emails from “Dave” to Ellen, which she provided to the Star, use endearments like “baby,” “honey” and “sweetheart,” and end with “hugs, kisses and love.” Ellen says she wasn’t head-over-heels for him — which would make her different from many other victims of romance scams — and by the end of the con, she just wanted her money back.

Why not, thought Ellen, even though she’d previously dipped her toe in the pool of men online, and found them wanting. Ellen says “Dave” told her he had been left a sizeable inheritance offshore, but because of a lawyer’s incompetence, he had to clear some debts before he could sell the assets.“I am of the nature that I would help anybody,” Ellen says.He or she might be attracted by the photo someone posts: a pretty young woman, or a soldier in uniform. For men, the female scammer presents herself to her target as “young and vulnerable.”For women, the man-on-the-make may say he’s wealthy or of high status, like a businessman or top soldier.Or someone might reach out and start the conversation. He may also have a touching backstory: widowed, “lost their wife in a tragic accident, and are sometimes left with a child to care for.” “They want to know who you’re looking for,” Williams says.Because they have so much money coming in, they can wait.”The reason for the request probably meshes with the story: their passport has been lost, or their child needs a doctor, or there’s some other emergency.It can start with a few hundred dollars, or a thousand. “He said, ‘It’s not a game.’ And what was the excuse?