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Sarasota woman loses $1M after falling victim to online dating scam

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - "This was intimate, love, details, dreaming, so so deep," said Pamela Viles, the victim of an online dating scam.

It's a sobering realization for Viles. She recently learned the man she's been texting daily, and calling twice a week, isn't who she thought he is.

"I felt like I really knew him closer than anybody that I had known," stated Viles during an interview with ABC7 Friday.

69-year-old Viles says she met a man named James Lazenby on Match.com two years ago; an Australian born business owner with dual citizenship in Canada. She told ABC7 health problems hindered her clear thinking. Otherwise, she would've seen the red flags.

"I'm very clear headed but I have a little bit of dementia," explained Viles.

Over the last two years, he sent her small increments of money, while he requested much more, claiming he was having business troubles.

"He just kept sucking me back in," said Viles.

Dating back to 2016, she sent him money from her IRA, personal checking account, and funds taken from credit card loans and is now more than $350,000 in debt. She also sent $900,000 of fraudulent wire transfer funds overseas, after believing he sent her authentic funds that weren't even there in the first place. The money was sent to Dubai.

"You're thinking if its deposited into your account its cleared, that's legitimate, but its not," cried Viles.

According to the Better Business Bureau, romance scams are also known as catfishing and found scammers will manipulate victims by talking about the importance of trust, then they will start asking for money.

Viles believes she was blind-sided while using the online dating site.

"It's a definite technology deficit," explained Viles.

Now Viles is prepared to lose her home, and wants others to be skeptical if a story sounds too good to be true.

"Now I don't think anything's true, anything at all," stated Viles.

Viles is hoping to get back some of the funds she lost, which is why her family started a Go Fund Me account.

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