Senior loses $130K in online romance scam

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – – Mary is 77-years-old, a mother, grandmother and now, a job hunter.

She lost her entire life savings and even faces trouble with the IRS all because she thought she found a friend on Facebook. It all started with a birthday wish from a stranger.

“It was a pleasant surprise, nice looking man, and we began messaging back and forth,” recalled Mary.

Mary accepted a person who called himself Lucas Spence as a Facebook friend. She said it wasn’t long before the messages turned into emails and finally texts.

“We took up a friendship and learned about each other’s families and it was fun.”

A few weeks in, the conversation shifted from family to finances.

“It progressed when he told me he was going to Southeast Asia to bid on a contract for oil exploration and that he had spent all his money to get this contract and he needed some money,” explained Mary. “Well, that should have been the last I ever heard of him, but I chose to believe him even though it sounded to me like a scam.”

Mary even asked him if it was a scam.

“I said, ‘Are you a catfish?’ And he said, ‘I’m not a catfish. What’s catfish?’ I wanted so much to believe.”

Spence was charming, attentive and convincing.

“Oh the promises,” said Mary. “The, ‘You’re so wonderful, I love you, I know even just looking at your picture,’ blah blah blah, it’s sort of a standard script, I think.”

Mary opened her heart to him and he emptied her wallet.

“I kept sending money thinking any minute, the contract will be up, and we will get our money back. He will be paid, and we will get our money back,” said Mary. “It became almost desperation, throwing money at this person and of course, having run out of money, I’m not of any interest to him anymore.”

Mary gave him $130,000 – everything she had.

“I don’t have money to take care of myself or should something dire happen,” she said.

After she told Spence she had nothing left to give, he kept asking, even contacting her during the interview with WKRN, wanting a $100 iTunes gift card.

“At one point I told him, ‘I’m going to turn you into the FTC and the FBI, the police have already been here, and he said, ‘I’m not afraid of you. You will never find me.'”

Mary said she is sharing her story in the hopes that no one else will have to go through what she has.

“I would say be very careful, not to get isolated. Whatever you do, go out in the community, find a friend, find something to do. Do not stay at home,” said Mary.

“This is one of the few times in my life I have been lonely. It makes you very susceptible to all kinds of things, and a scam is the most devastating.”

Mary turned to her family and FiftyForward for help after she realized she was the victim of a romance scam.