A woman from Queensland, Australia has reportedly lost $100,000 (AUD) to an online scammer calling himself ‘Carlos’.
In 2015 Patricia Meister accepted a friend request from an Italian man named ‘Carlos’.
The online relationship transpired to be with a fraudster in Nigeria who took $100,000 from her – roughly £57,8800 GBP.
Meister spoke to Daily Mail Australia to warn others about the kind of scam that caught her.
I’d never been on dating websites, and I only used Facebook for business. So when I got the friend request, I thought it couldn’t do any harm, can it?
I guess at the time, I was going through a period in my life where I felt isolated. I’d been single for a while and I’d never been on dating sites.
She explains that ‘Carlos’ had good English, and was ‘very romantic’. According to an interview Meister gave to Australian Woman’s Weekly, ‘Carlos’ claimed to be a widower, and said he was looking for something ‘deep and lasting’.
Meister told the Daily Mail
I was very much in love with him at one stage.
She said that the man pretending to be Carlos claimed he was an interior designer in Brisbane, not far from Meister’s home in Bundaberg.
The online chat progressed to phone conversations, when Meister’s suspicions were raised.
When I first spoke to him, I heard his voice but he had a different accent to what I’d expected. I remember thinking ‘what is that accent?’ I couldn’t place his accent.
I wasn’t familiar with his accent at the time, but thinking about it now, he was definitely African… He was Nigerian.
This all occurred within eight weeks of accepting his friend request on Facebook. Then the fraudster reportedly asked Meister for $600 (AUD), claiming that his credit card was not working, and that he was in Malaysia for a project.
Despite the fact she felt that his story ‘didn’t add up’, Meister sent the money.
She claims the requests for payments continued, and became larger. Meister says she sent him $7000, in one go.
During the call, and the exchange, she says there was what sounded like a lawyer in the background. She says she was also given a link to a ‘tracking sheet’ when ‘Carlos’ claimed he would return her the money in cash, via a courier.
Following the parcel’s process, Meister saw it stop at Kuala Lumpur airport, where it supposedly had a $25,000 fee to let the cash leave the country.
Meister paid it, only to be hit by another ‘fee’ at Melbourne airport.
The day of the parcel’s ‘arrival’ with Meister, she says she received another phone call, claiming that ‘Carlos’ and his lawyer had been in a car accident, and needed the money to pay their medical bills.
My stomach dropped to my shoes. I knew at that point, I’d been scammed.
Meister told Daily Mail Australia that she refused to pay the fees, and she and ‘Carlos’ did not communicate for approximately one week.
In part, her refusal was down to the fact she had ‘gone through her last dollar’.
I couldn’t pay him anymore and I even told him I wasn’t going to send him any more money. Shortly after that, he made a ‘miraculous recovery’ but I’d stopped talking to him by then.
She says she went to the police, and told the fraudster she knew he was a scammer. This was followed, according to Meister, by radio silence from the scam artist.
Meister joined a support group for people in her situation, Romance Scams Now.
People think you’re stupid but they’re not walking in our shoes. It’s not a matter of being stupid. Even the most intelligent, educated women are getting scammed
In addition to the Daily Mail, Meister also raised awareness about her deal with interviews with anti-scammer activist Elina Juusola-Halonen and Australian Woman’s Weekly.