BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Montgomery County man says he was scammed out of about $15,000 from an online dating scam spanning five years.

“I just don’t want anyone to feel what I felt, and what I obviously still feel,” the man, identified as “D”, told WJZ this week. “They would send me pictures. I would send pictures back… She was an art dealer—at least that’s what they told me.”

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“D”, a Montgomery County divorced father, met the person on a chatting app five years ago. A relationship slowly developed over time. Eventually, the person with whom “D” was chatting started asking for money.

“It started with little things. You know, $200 here, $300 there,” “D” said. “I had $150,000 wired to my account. I’m like, ‘What in the world is this?’”

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“D”’s bank questioned him and eventually, the FBI reached out.

“If you’re getting asked to provide bank accounts, if you’re being asked to send Western Union, bitcoin, these are huge red flags,” FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Reising said. “They’re a world full of lonely people—divorced, widowed. A lot of these victims are elderly.”

Reising said before the COVID-19 pandemic, he would deal with about three of these “sweetheart scam” cases a day. Now, it’s more like 10 cases a day, Reising said.

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“Emotional is what hurts. Yeah, it messed it up my bank accounts and took my money, but I guess in time it will sort itself out,” “D” said. “I’m still trying to pay stuff off. I’m still trying to build my credit back up.”

Paul Gessler