LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — A Lynchburg woman thought she had found her “happily ever after,” but ended up facing a financial nightmare when she fell victim to a romance scam.
A ‘romance scam’ occurs when a person takes advantage of another by pretending to be in a relationship. It’s extremely common on the internet.
“‘You’re the world to me,’ he said, so I believed him,” said Beverly Finch.
On the search for new love, Finch made an account on the dating app, Plenty of Fish, where she met a man named Michael Higgins.
“He had already told me he wanted a life with me, and he had an inheritance from his parents coming to him that he was going to come and get when he got home, and we were going to be happy and rich,” said Finch.
The scammer told her he lived in Egypt and owned a contracting business. They talked just about every day for about a year. However, Finch had never seen him in person.
“He asked to have my bank account information maybe a month or so in,” said Finch.
Over the past year, she opened five bank accounts for him.
“He said he was over there getting lumber for his business,” continued Finch.
At one point, he claimed to be hospitalized, costing Finch more than $700, followed by a hotel stay.
The scammer even got her to purchase four cell phones, saying the phones — which cost Finch $700 to $900 each — were for his employees.
In time, she began using her own bank account to transfer money to him.
“He started texting me at 7 o’clock in the morning to go to Bitcoin, go to the bank, get the money out, go to Bitcoin, and send it to him,” said Finch.
Investigator Sarah Barbour showed up at Finch’s door after a local bank Finch frequented called Adult Protective Services to report a possible scam.
“People meet on Facebook, Plenty of Fish, Bumble, Tinder, all of those, Match.com. They’re very smart in knowing what exactly to say and do in order to make sure that you do fall to be one of their victims,” explained Barbour.
“I just don’t know how someone could treat someone like that and use their emotions,” said Finch.
Eventually, the scammer’s promises and heartfelt words to her turned to threats against Finch and her family.
“He made me so afraid that I locked myself in a cocoon, and I couldn’t get out for a while,” added Finch.
For the past three months, she’s been working with Barbour and the Lynchburg Police Department to close accounts, report scams, and get some of her money back. Finch says she hopes to have her life back soon.
“It’s been a long road,” remarked Finch.
If you believe you or someone you know could be involved in an internet scam, you’re encouraged to immediately report it to Social Services or an Adult Protective Services agency.
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