LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It’s the season of love and a lot of people are out searching for their Valentine. Nowadays, many take their quest to the internet, but if you do, you need to be careful.
Chances are you’ve seen the popular TV show, Catfish, which reveals people online pretending to be someone they’re not. Most of the time, it turns out to be a person who’s insecure about who they really are.
In this case, it was something more malicious--something called “sweetheart scamming”.
A “sweetheart scammer” will use online dating websites, like Match.com and eHarmony, to lure victims into a fake online relationship.
Scammers play on the victim’s emotions by duping them into sending thousands of dollars to help them get out of various types of legal or financial issues.
In this story our heroine still hasn’t found her prince charming, but she’s not letting one antagonist stop her from finding her Rhett Butler. That’s why we’ll call her Scarlett.
Reading text messages from a man she met on Match.com named Fabian Giovanni, Scarlett recalls she started feeling suspicious pretty early on.
“He asked me to take my profile down and he would do the same, so we would be exclusive,” said Scarlett. “Because he found a woman that he really wanted to communicate with and he is a one woman man.”
Scarlett looked up his Kentucky phone number, but it wasn’t attached to a name or address--and Fabian conveniently jetted off to Alaska for his job as a geologist and contractor.
“It was, ‘I miss you so much, I can’t wait to see you face-to-face,’” said Scarlett. “He started calling me my love, honey, sweetheart, dearest, and of course I played along.”
She ran a background check, only to find an independent contractor named Fabian Giovanni doesn’t exist in Kentucky.
Fabian said he moved from Italy with his wife of 25 years to California and she died of cancer. He claimed that was why he moved to Louisville. He told her he lived in Cherokee Gardens and went to a church in the Highlands.
Other weird things kept happening that Scarlett said did not add up. They would talk on the phone, she said, and he had an accent but she couldn’t tell from where, because the calls were always quick.
Scarlett and her daughter searched with Fabian’s pictures and found them on an Instagram account.
“We looked up the name that he had on Instagram and it was of a person that had passed away three years ago,” said Scarlett.
Fabian started making weird requests.
Scarlett said he asked her to sign for a package containing payment from a job he was on in Syria. Scarlet did not want to give him her address and said no. Fabian got mad, stopped contacting her for 24 hours, then told her he “forgave her."
Soon after, she got the text everyone was expecting. He asked her for $6,500.
Scarlett played along. Fabian sent her a bank account and routing number, as well as a name and address.
Of course, Scarlett looked it up.
“He turned out to be a 23-year-old young man who lives with his parents,” said Scarlett. “They have been in Georgia since 2005 and they immigrated here from Lagos, Nigeria.”
The profile has been reported to Match.com and removed. Scarlett didn’t fall for any of it, and wanted to share her story to warn those looking for love online. She said the whole interaction took about four weeks and she has since sent him a message to inform him that the jig is up.
The Attorney General wants to warn people about “sweetheart scammers”. There have been four victims this year in Campbell, Jefferson, and Wayne Counties, who have lost nearly $300,000 to sweetheart scammers.
In 2017, the FBI reported sweetheart scams cost victims in the US more than $211 million in losses, making it the second-largest online crime.