Woman escapes apparent 'catfishing' scam

November 15, 2013

That's the term used for daters who pose as someone else on the internet to lure a love interest.

Marlene Hudson wasn't looking for love. She was overseas Skyping with family when an unexpected message popped up on her screen.

"Someone asked if I would talk to them. I said, 'Do I know you?' and they said, 'No but, I'm on a peace mission in Syria,'" Marlene told Action News.

Hudson was working in China, and welcomed the conversation from a stunning American man who introduced himself as retired General David Barno.

"At first I thought, 'A general wouldn't be just striking up a conversation on Skype.' That was my first doubt so I Googled him and said 'It's him!'"

For weeks the two communicated via instant messenger and email, but they never spoke on the phone or through video.

"Here I'm thinking we're both on these missions in different parts of the world and this all seemed very romantic," she said.

Those days and weeks of writing spun into a 3 month online romance.

"When I first sent my picture he said, 'I'm falling in love.'"

When Hudson returned to the U.S., the "general" told Hudson he wanted to buy a house together, and he sent her a bank receipt for $2 million. He said he wanted to deposit into her account, but there was one catch, she would have to send $2,000 for the transfer.

"He started to really press the money and that's when I realized this is what this is about," she said.

The person Marlene thought she knew turned angry when she wouldn't wire the money to Africa. We reached out to the real General David Barno, who lives in rural Pennsylvania. His wife told us they are aware of at least one other woman who was also conned by an imposter posing as the general.

"Asking for money is a big red flag," says online dating expert Julie Spira. "Always say no because one check of $2,000 could end up wiping out somebody's bank account forever."

Other red flags include:

  • If the person is in another country
  • If they won't have a simple Skype date
  • If they won't get off line and meet in person in a matter of a few months

Spira also recommends doing a background check.

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