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American falls prey to chat room scam
By Michael Punongbayan
The Philippine Star 08/16/2006

If youíre lucky, online dating can help you find an ideal partner.

But if youíre not careful, you could lose your life savings and fall prey to extortionists and scam artists targeting those in search of affection.

Timothy Devaney, 44, a freelance journalist from San Francisco, California, became one such victim after a 20-year-old Filipina became his online "girlfriend."

He didnít know he was being duped until he flew to Manila to meet his chatmate, a nursing student from Mandaue City, last month.

After more than six months of exchanging e-mails and indulging in hours of chat, he found out that he may never meet his "girlfriend," with whom he had been sending money from the US through money transfer service.

Devaney, knowing that all he can now do is warn everyone of the cyberscam, went to the Makati City Police Department to tell authorities of his sad love story yesterday.

According to the American, he met Trisha de la Torre at a chatroom in December 2005. The photo of a beautiful Filipina stood out among the others, which led to the start of their online friendship.

They eventually became more than friends and he found out that his chat partner was a nursing student in Mandaue City, Cebu.

Devaney told Makati policemen that he sent her money to buy a cellular phone and other items as well as pay for her tuition. He would often send her $200 or $300 through money transfer.

He claimed to have sent her more than P400,000 during the "relationship."

And after a year and a half of chatting, he decided to meet De la Torre, who agreed to meet him last July 27 in Cebu.

He later found out that the girl of his dreams did not exist.

Devaney, who is now staying in Makati, is preparing to go back to the US.

He told policemen that he realized he was duped when he saw five other names in the chatroom using the same picture of the pretty Filipina.

"I donít expect to get my money back," Devaney told The Star, adding that he found the same girl in several other Internet dating sites like myspace.com, Filipina Friendfinder and Foreign Bride.

Probers said it would be difficult to determine the crime committed since the scam was committed in cyberspace between the US and Cebu.

"May scam talaga dito. This should serve as a warning," police said as Devaneyís case was placed on official police record.

The American said a person identified as "Badoy Pogi" is responsible for the so-called scam since he has some 200 girls at myspace.com.

"I think heís running the scam. I think he pays for the photos and makes a bunch of profiles," Devaney said, adding that he searched for Trisha in other sites and found out that she uses the names Janet, Myra and others.