Here is the sad story of Joan Romano, a 53-year-old Long Island divorcee who works as an office manager for a rheumatologist, and in her spare time cares for her disabled brother and elderly mother, both of whom live with her. She's lonely and vulnerable, and turned to the Internet for succor, finding a connection on Match.com with a man who said he was a U.S. soldier serving in Afghanistan. But people suck, and the Internet makes them ten times worse: Romano's longing for companionship was exploited by a grifter who took her on a $25,000 ride.
Newsday reports (paywall) that during the six month long virtual romance, the man, who said his name was Sgt. Austin Miller and, later Sgt. Austin Newman, asked her to send a laptop so they could stay in touch more easily. So she purchased one and sent it to an address he provided... in Ghana. Then he told her he needed her to pay the customs fees on the laptop, so she wired him money for that. Once that threshold was crossed, the con artist persuaded Romano to "loan him" tens of thousands of dollars over the next months.
And after the man refused to pay her back, Romano finally confirmed she was being scammed when she searched online for information about the man and found pictures of him on a site about impostors. She filed a complaint with the FBI in June, and tells CBS2, "This should never happen. It’s a disgrace and anyone that’s going to impersonate a U.S. soldier deserves to be punished." But they'll probably never find the guy; a spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation Command tells Newsday these con artists "run their operations out of Internet cafes on other continents where there are legal 'jurisdictional issues.' They'll set up an operation, work it a couple weeks and move on."
For extra sadness, check out this CBS2 segment; Romano starts crying at the 1:30 mark. Anyway, here's her profile; would some halfway decent human being please take her out for a nice dinner?