GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - A central Florida doctor admits romance caused her to be duped online. Police say she was the victim of a scheme that is becoming more and more common.
Cynthia Bush is a doctor in Gainesville. She told FOX 35 she decided to share her experience because she’s afraid that if it could happen to her, it could happen to anyone. "I wanted to be sure I did my part in preventing this,” she said.
Bush said she recently struck up a relationship with a man she met on LinkedIn. "He seemed quite legitimate and I became interested," Bush said. The man told her his name was Alex. He sent her flowers and a phone full of photos of himself. Bush said she found Alex and his resume attractive. “An engineer, located out of Houston, actually had a house listed there which I checked on.”
After a while all the long-distance wooing started to seem too good to be true, and when the man told Bush he had been kidnapped in North Carolina and he needed her money she decided to fly there and check it out herself. "I thought I'll just get on a plane and fly to Charlotte right now. And either he will be real and he will be being held hostage or not,” she said.
According to the Charlton-Mecklenburg Police Department Bush made contact with officers at the airport who helped her confirm that the person she was communicating with was up to no good. They do not have a suspect. "Fortunately for me, I did not lose anything but the $1,000 I invested in going up to investigate him,” Bush said.
FOX 35 took the case to the Orlando Police Department’s Economic Crimes Unit. They are not investigating Bush’s case, but they say they see similar schemes.
Sgt. Debra Chapman said the biggest red flag in romance schemes is the con artists carry on a long-distance relationship for a long time, but can never seem to find an opportunity to meet in person. “And then when it's finally 'OK, I'm going to come and meet you' there's some disaster. Something has happened where they themselves have been injured or they get stuck in a country that they're doing a project and all of a sudden they need money,” Chapman said.
Police say the people who pull off these dating schemes put together attractive dating profiles. They typically pose as someone younger wooing someone older, with a good job in another place. Chapman said the biggest red flag is they are quick to say “I love you.” “The people that they are targeting are usually people who they may consider wealthy, financially set, smart, educated, that's who they are targeting and it doesn't matter...anyone can be a victim of these scams,” Chapman said.