I-Team: Local man pays high price in online dating scam

I-Team: Local man pays high price in online dating scam

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Online dating – it might be a natural for the younger set. But, for men and women who might be middle-aged and who didn't start dating that way, there's often a learning curve.

And, before you dive into the wide world of online dating, here's a cautionary tale from a brave, but embarrassed man who talked to FOX 5 I-Team's Dana Wolfe about the pitfalls of meeting a stranger online and trying to find love.

All of the red flags were there – all of them. But, Mark Terracina says he fell for a beautiful online stranger anyway. When this online encounter went South, Mark called the I-Team to make sure other people wouldn't be tricked in their online efforts to find true love.

Mark is recently divorced and looking for some romantic companionship in his life. Still, he says it's hard to start dating again.

So, he signed up for online dating.  And, early on, Mark read to be on the lookout for overseas love interests who were more likely interested in his wallet.

"Nigerian woman would ping and there were several ladies from Russia," Mark said.

But, despite being guarded, he still he managed to get caught in the web of a scam when he connected on Match.com with "Jessica Waterman."  Her appeal?  She said she lived about a mile from him.
 
"She gave me her address and said feel free to go check it out," Mark said.

He said he didn't check out Jessica's address right away.

"Not initially because I felt like someone that was gonna give me that much information up front, I probably didn't need to be as on guard," he said.

She also worked some love letter magic on Mark.
 
"She put three songs together that basically touched my heart."

And, then this online relationship touched his wallet. His local love interest said she was actually out of the country starting up a new antiques import business.

"She presented me with a question and that was, ‘Would you help me with some funds because I'm here in the Philippines, didn't realize it was going to be this much to get my goods shipped.'"

And, Mark did. He sent her $900. If only he had checked out Match.com's warning to be on the lookout for "Claims of ... traveling, living or working abroad." Then, Jessica's business trip to the Philippines would have sent up a red flag.
 
Still, he paid even though her problems persisted.
 
Mark said, "So, after that hurdle was cleared, or so I thought, she tried to tell me that her plane ticket was somehow invalidated."
 
Another $1,400.  Again, too bad Mark hadn't seen this Web site warning users to be aware of someone who "Asks you for money."  He even waited for her at the airport, but she missed her flight -- an accident.
 
Mark said, "She survived the bus accident, but she needed surgery."

The surgery would cost $1,800. Finally, he put Cupid's arrow back in its quiver. No more. He ended up spending about $2,300 to date a woman he never actually met.

Mark says he's bruised. Embarrassed. And taking a break now from online dating. But, slowly he's starting to laugh again and might be ready to love again.
 
Mark says he didn't report his troubling tale to Match.com or even the police. He said he thinks he should have known better. So, he called the FOX 5 I-Team to remind people who are pursuing love online to not make some of the same mistakes he did.

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