Woman scammed out of $15,000 on Christian dating website

A Bakersfield woman saying she was scammed out of $15,000 by someone she met on a Christian dating website. She reported the case to the Bakersfield Police Department, but detectives say scams like this often go unsolved because online identities are usually fake.

Debby Abel says she is humiliated she fell for the internet scam, but that didn't stop her from helping others learn from her mistake. Abel fell in love with a man claiming to be Larry Felix Mark on the Christian dating website www.bigchurch.com. After two months of phone calls and emails, Abel believed she found her soul mate.

"I have never in my life connected emotionally, mentally and spiritually with someone like this person," Abel explained.

So when Mark said he needed $15,429 for a business investment in Nigeria, Africa, Abel wired the money through Western Union. Mark told Abel he would pay her back in February and said some of the money would cover the plane ticket to see her in Bakersfield just weeks before Christmas.

"He was going to meet my family at a special family dinner that we had planned," Abel explained "We were going to see what reality was like. you can't make any decisions about a relationship until you meet somebody in person."

However, the day of his flight, Abel got a surprising phone call from Mark asking for more money.

"He was asking for money again and then I realized this guy--this is a total scam," Abel said.

Abel was married for 25 years, and says it's been hard trying find another man with her interests, so she turned to websites like www.bigchurch.com and www.eharmony.com. Detective Todd Brown from the Bakersfield Police Department says scams can occur on any website, so people should be cautious when giving money online or over the phone.

"If you're going to give money to somebody, do it in a contract," Detective Brown said. "If you just send money to somebody out of the goodness of your heart, there's no civil contract you can take to court if we're able to find that person."

Detective Brown says the man or group of people who have Abel's money could already be talking to others, using a different name, picture and story. Brown says the best resource to report internet scam artists is a government website coordinated through the FBI: ic3.gov

Online dating is not so safe and secure. For more safety tips, go to DatingGuide101