INDIANAPOLIS — What began with a click on a fan page site has led to an Indianapolis woman being fleeced of her life savings in an online romance scam using gift cards.
The Indianapolis woman, who asked not to be named, has been communicating online with a man she thought was an actor on the ABC soap opera "General Hospital."
The imposter convinced her to send him money via gift cards.
The scheme was simple. She'd buy gift cards and share the numbers on the back so that he could then access the money. The scammer told her that the money would pay for a personal project and for her trip to visit Hollywood to meet other soap opera stars.
The woman began sending thousands of dollars once he expressed his love for her.
"He said I feel comfortable with you, can we go further type of thing. He coaxed me into that. I was gullible at the time," the woman said.
In July she traveled to stores in Plainfield, Speedway and Indianapolis to purchase 29 cards totaling $3,600.
In August, she sent him the most money with a mix of postal money orders and gift cards adding to $12,500.
In September, she bought 15 Apple gift cards at Target and Meijer totaling $2,200.
In October, she spent a total $300 on three cards.
In November, she purchased cards at Best Buy for $2,200.
In December, it was $7,500 and so far in the first eight days of Janaury 2024 she spent $5,000.
"He was such a sweet talker. He would convince me," said the lady while we sat around her kitchen table.
Her favorite soap opera is "General Hospital" on ABC.
The online imposter used the name of soap star Steve Burton as part of his scheme to get money via gift cards valued from $50 to $500.
In August on Instagram, the real Steve Burton warned that he does not "reach out personally to fans" and to "Beware of scammers."
Initially, the lady told WRTV she thought she sent the scammer at least $15,000. She kept in a brown box all the gift cards she purchased. She allowed me to go through the months of receipts and cards from multiple stores.
The total on the gift cards alone is $33,300.
"I would say I was in love. Stupid in love," said the Indianapolis woman.
Since leaving her home on Friday, January 12, the lady is planning to move forward with divorcing her husband of 55 years.
She's agreed to get a quick deed and place her husband's name on the home, so that she will not sell the house to by more gift cards or money orders.
Scammers use gift cards in these schemes because its an easy way to get money undetected without showing any identification or alerting authorities.
Scammers trade the dollars from the cards online to get a percentage of the cards face value.