TUCSON - On any given day, scam artists are surfing the internet looking for victims to prey on.
One woman who asked to remain anonymous fell for such a scam. She is speaking out so that others won't make the same mistake.
She's a recent widow who went on a popular website to meet people. She said she was alone and vulnerable. She never imagined she'd be taken for a ride.
“I feel foolish, and embarrassed, and stupid," she said. "I know I am not a stupid person but I did a stupid thing.”
She said she went on the online dating site, Christian Mingle, back in October. That's where she met a man who called himself Michael Bernard. He claimed he was an engineer from Texas who worked in Egypt.
“He had his own construction company and he was building a bridge and a power plant,” said the victim.
What attracted her about him was that he spoke his feelings.
He not only spoke he wrote about his feelings. In an email he sent a week ago, the subject line: "Thank God I found you."
The letter said "Dear love of my life, you came into my life when everything seemed so dark but you provided the light to find my way.”
He also wrote about love.
“I love you so much and I know you love me too,” he said.
He signed the email, “love you forever my queen, Michael Bernard”
He told her he was a single father raising a daughter. He even sent her a picture of himself with a young girl holding a trophy. It was obvious he had photo shopped himself into the picture.
She sent him, “A ton of money I sent to this man for a variety of things he told me he needed it for.”
She kept track of the money grams she sent, including money Bernard said he needed to bribe an Egyptian immigration official. He provided her with a passport of a Nigerian man. Bernard said if she sent the money, he could finally get his papers to come see her.
She sent $175,000 in cash and he was supposed to come after that he never did.
What he did do was ask for an additional $60,000. The victim told him, “There's no way I could do that.”
Michael Bernard stopped his emails, phone calls and texts.
Part of the victim wanted to tell him, “How could you be so cold hearted?”
But then, there's also the part where she can never hate him because she said tearfully, “through him my feelings came alive for the first time ever.”
But at what price?
“It's killed my relationship with my children because I've lied to them repeatedly, and they can't trust me which is understandable,” she said.
In all, she spent $285,000 on this individual.
She knows she will never see a penny of it. That's why she wants others to beware.
The Pima County Sheriff's Department took the report and also cautioned people not to give money away to strangers they've met online.