HONOLULU (KHON2) — Three years ago, Kate Kleinert did something she had never done before. She accepted a friend request from a stranger on Facebook.
“But there was something about his picture, he was very handsome, he was in a white coat like a doctor, just said he was so interested in everything I was interested in,” said Kleinert, a romance scam victim.
They talked multiple times a day for several months. She developed strong feelings for this person.
“But I’ve been widowed now 14 years and it felt nice to have a man say ‘how was your day honey?’ Nobody said that to me in a very long time,” said Kleinert.
Kleinert, who lives on the mainland, said after a few months, her new friend began asking her for gift cards.
“He laid down that level of trust and then it’s so hard to think that I can’t trust him after all these months,” said Kleinert. “If he wanted something he would have started right away.”
“How long did this go for and how much money were you scammed out of?” KHON2 News asked.
“It went for a few more months and the total that I paid out was $39,000,” said Kleinert.
After a few more red flags, she knew something wasn’t right and cut things off.
Kleinert, who is now 70 years old, doesn’t want anyone else to become a victim, so she will share her story during AARP’s free Scam Jam workshops in Hawaii this week.
After a disaster like the Maui wildfires, AARP said it’s common to see fake charities, Federal Emergency Management Agency impostors and shady contractors.
“But you know, you want to stay in an organization that you’re comfortable with,” said AARP Fraud Prevention Director, Kathy Stokes. “If you don’t know the company, you gotta do the research. Give.org is a really good place to do that.”
Stokes said when a kupuna is involved in a scam, they have much more to lose.
Participants will learn more at AARP’s workshops that are being held on numerous islands through Saturday. If you’d like more information or to register, click here.
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As for Kleinert, she wants to remind victims, “it is not your fault. These people are so well trained.”