More victims of online military romance scams come forward

By Jace Larson - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - More victims of romance scams are coming forward after Local 2 Investigates exposed how scam artists are using pictures of U.S. soldiers to trick people into thinking they are falling in love and then coning the victims into sending money and expensive gifts abroad.

"When it's all totaled up, I'm going to be out close to $20,000," said Tammy, a Houston woman who asked that we not use her last name. "Of course, I now feel foolish. I always said it would never happen to me."

She's having to work two jobs to pay back the money because her checking account has been overdrawn by thousands.

The man she met online told her that a friend was wiring her money and she should then forward it on to his sick son in Africa. He claimed to be an Army soldier serving in Kuwait. She followed his instructions and wired money several times.

"He told me he was going to be home in December," she said. "We were going to live a happy life. We were going to go to Paris. We were going to have a nice house. I wasn't going to have to work, I was going to get to go to school. It was all fake."

Harris County sheriff's detective Sgt. Michael Ellison said he has seen scam artists work like this before.

"They present a picture to them, something that is very appealing of course," Ellison said.

One woman came forward to deputies to say she had sent a man $75,000. Another woman sent thousands too thinking she had found the love of her life.

"He said, 'If you send me money, I will come to Houston and marry you.' What ended up happening? She sent him $50,000 and, of course, he never showed up," Ellison said.

Another woman contacted Local 2 this week to say she's lost money to scam artists who convinced her to wire money overseas too.

Experts say scammers scour social media, collecting real pictures of all types of guys to create a luring profile for each victim.

"They know exactly what to tell us. 'I love you. You are this. You are that. This is going to happen.' We are really losing, we are losing our money," Tammy said.

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