by: Jenna Deery Updated:CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
Millions of people are turning to convenience over chemistry and going online to search for a soul mate.
It's especially hard to meet someone when wheat fields are your neighbor. That's why an Anson County woman got a Facebook account.
“It was my first time on Facebook and I didn't know how I was doing it or what I was doing but I have learned,” she said.
The woman asked Channel 9 to conceal her identity because of her experience.
The 65-year-old woman said she started talking to a man online named Sgt. James Collins. She said she instantly felt an attraction.
“He kept telling me that he loved me and that that he wanted to meet me someday,” she said.
The conversation soon turned to money. She said Collins asked her for hundreds of dollars.
He said it was to help him make the trip to meet her.
Her daughter became suspicious, did some digging and found her mother was being scammed.
“I'm so thankful that I did not send him any money,” the woman said.
Channel 9 found other women online have fallen into the trap -- even with the same so-called Sgt. Collins.
In 2013, 36 people in North Carolina paid $1.4 million to con artists posing as love interests.
So far this year, the attorney general's office has investigated six cases in which about $200,000 was spent on a fake infatuation.
Investigators have even flown aboard to intercept a meet up where money was going to be exchanged.
While some pursuits of love cost people a small fortune. For others, it cost them, their sense of security.
“Once they've met with them in person whether it be the first time or the second time, it led to the sexual assault,” Cori Goldstein said.
Goldstein works for the sexual trauma resource center in Mecklenburg County.
She said counselors have worked with women sexually assaulted by someone they met online.
The agency doesn't track how often it happens, but it happens enough for advocates to know it’s a problem.
“They are just learning to live again in a different way,” Goldstein said.
There are steps to protect yourself.
Never post personal contact information.
Ask your interest plenty of questions to track inconsistencies and lies.
Find safe, public places to meet and tell someone where you are going.
“Even if you met someone at a coffee shop, you still want to have your guard up and not be in fear because there are a lot of people who are online dating that this is happening to,” Goldstein said.
The best advice is to follow your instinct. It is the best guide when navigating love online.
Call 1-877-5-No-Scam toll-free within North Carolina or CLICK HERE.
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