'Casanova Cons' target wealthy widows online

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's sometimes called the Romance Scheme or the Sweetheart Scam.

Casanova cons use singles sites to find their victims, often lonely, wealthy women.

"These guys make promises," says Honolulu Police Lieutenant John McCarthy.  "They assume identities, steal photographs of others and say, this is me."

"I always had a feeling that something wasn't right," says a victim of the Sweetheart Scam who didn't want to be identified.

"This guy contacted me on Match.com," she says.

The man soon asked her to go 'offline', meaning he wanted to email her directly.  Then they started talking on the phone.

"We (were) forming a really good relationship."  She says the man gained her trust.

"They make promises," says Lt. McCarthy, "Whisper sweet nothings into the victim's ear, and then say, I need money."

Sometimes the con says he's in Africa and has diamonds he wants to bring to her, but he has to first pay a hefty tax.

In our victim's case, the man said he had a construction site in England and couldn't return to Hawaii until the job was complete.  But, he needed money to buy materials to complete the work.

She gave him hundreds of thousands of dollars, wired the money to a bank account.   The last transaction of $150,000 was stopped by an alert teller at First Hawaiian Bank, who noticed all the money being moved and called police.

Only then, did the victim realize, she was being played.

"I started crying because I feel really stupid now," she says.

The widow was able to get her money back but police never caught the con.

"It's difficult for us to identify this person," says Lt. McCarthy, who says the person is often in another country that won't cooperate with the United States.

Lt. McCarthy says they frequently use Match.com, but they have had cases from other sites like ChristianMingle.com.

The victim still uses several dating sites, but she's much more careful now.  Anytime she is asked to go 'offline' she notifies police.

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