Surviving Online Dating Fraud

Written by Carole Zingula

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which provides the public with a means of reporting internet-facilitated crimes, reports that when compared to other online crimes, romance scams result in the highest amount of financial losses to victims. In their most recent available report of 2016, almost 15,000 romance scam complaints were reported—nearly 2,500 more than the previous year. In just one year, victims of online dating fraud lost $230 million.

In 2012, at the age of seventy-six, I became one of those victims. In my book, Surviving Online Dating Fraud: How I Recovered and the Lessons I Learned, I explain why I became one of ten people scammed out of thousands of dollars, all of us during the same time period by the same ring of criminals. Of these crime victims, I was the person defrauded out of the most amount of money: $400,000. Now, seven years later, I want to help you avoid being trapped by scam artists for any amount of money.

My case initiated the investigation of one of the largest online dating scams ever. At eighty-two years of age, I have recovered fairly well from the massive loss of my home and my income. After a great deal of personal work, I have elevated my self-esteem and recovered from the shame that comes from being duped out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. I now know my self-worth. 

Having traveled through six years of recovery, I share my journey with you. Being able to tell my story has led to new beginnings for me, including a newfound freedom to speak to others about this experience so that no one else has to suffer such an awful loss. After sharing my story, which will partly explain how scam artists were able to take advantage of me, I teach you how you can protect yourself from being victimized by a con artist.

For years after these criminals stole from me, I searched for why this happened to me and how I might be to blame. Why would I or anyone be drawn into such a tragic and disillusioning trap? I believe there is a reason for all things, so from the beginning, despite my anguish, I asked myself what life lesson did I have to learn from this difficult experience? Embarking on this search for my WHY—all while feeling pain, happiness, fulfillment, and God’s love—I found out the truth for myself: there is a reason for all things. My family history, my journey in life (the detours and specific paths I had taken) all led me to actions that help explain what happened to me and why. 

Although the WHY is complex, the particular nature of my WHY became clear to me when I dissected the chapters of my life. We all make decisions every day, from childhood to death. We also all experience tragedies from which we learn life’s lessons. This is my story and my lesson. I’m sharing it in hopes that the trauma and victimization that I experienced will help protect others from similar fraud. I also hope it will bring comfort to others who have been victims, so that they know they are not alone. 

There has been a new beginning for me. There can be a new beginning for you, too.

This excerpt from Carole K. Zingula’s book, Surviving Online Dating Fraud: How I Recovered and the Lessons I Learned, illustrates the power of one person’s willingness to share her story for the sake of other’s. The American Cancer Society honored Carole as a “Nurse of Hope,” having delivered quality education and hope to professionals and the public regarding cancer during her twenty-five-year career as a Registered Nurse. Since retiring, Carole has been an entrepreneur, sales manager, designer, and health insurance benefits advisor. A native of Iowa, she now lives in Arizona and speaks about why and how fraud can happen to anyone—and how to prevent it.

Written by Carole Zingula