TYLER, TX (KLTV) - An East Texas woman said she was 'catfished' on an online dating website and she narrowly avoided losing thousands of dollars.
Now she is sharing her experience to keep others from becoming victims.
A 'catfish' is an online dating scammer who misrepresents who he or she really is, usually to defraud the other person.
"I live out in the sticks and there's not many men that show up at my door," Anne Thomas said.
The 69-year-old started using the dating site "Plenty of Fish" in October. That's where she connected with a man named Stephan.
He told her he was an architect who was raised in Germany but that his mother was from Tyler.
"I was a little unsure that his accent was truly German national," Thomas said.
Thomas said in November they were talking constantly every day for about two weeks, even though they had never met face to face.
"He said initially he was going to Cape Town South Africa to finish a mall project there, and that he was waiting on a shipment from China," Thomas said.
When that shipment fell through, Thomas says he came to her for help.
"He said he was $5,000 short and could not get the shipment released," Thomas said.
Thomas said the man gave her information of where she should send the money, but she didn't go through with it.
"They just keep pulling you and sucking money out of you 'til you have nothing left, and then they are gone," Thomas said.
Experts said scammers try to take advantage of people during this vulnerable time of year.
"Valentine's day and things like that, it does happen all year, where people don't like to spend the holidays alone, so they may be looking more and more aggressively," said BBB CEO, Mechele Mills.
Thomas hopes her bad luck will save someone else money and heartbreak.
Thomas has filed reports locally and with the FBI. Experts said many of these scam artists are from overseas, so they are difficult to trace.