GRANITE CITY, Ill. (KMOV.com) -- He’s a mega star and one local woman believed he was in love with her. Now she is out tens of thousands of dollars.

Patty Morris has long admired John Travolta and his movies. So when someone she thought was the actor contacted her on her Twitter page, she was delighted.

The Granite City woman, who's a cancer survivor and on disability, looks for ways to give back.

The imposter Travolta said at first that she could help him raise funds.

“He said, well I need to buy gift cards but because of an agreement, I signed, I will get you a credit card, but until then, would you mind paying for them,” Patty said.

Patty agreed many times over.

But it wasn't just fundraising he promised.

The imposter said he was in love.

“Everything was ‘honey and dear.’ And on the message he says, ‘I am going to be there in February and we are going to start our lives together,’” Patty said.

Patty used up every penny in gift cards and electronics. She even maxed out five credit cards.

“I am ruined," Patty said. "I will either lose my house or file bankruptcy."

“We had a number who lost their houses, went bankrupt, it had financially devastating consequences on the victims,” Nathan Stump said.

Stump is the Assistant US Attorney with the Southern District of Illinois.

He said what happened to Patty is a new twist on an established scam.

“The idea that they are impersonating a very famous celebrating is new,” Stump said.

News 4 has told you about other romance or on-line dating scams in the past.

In 2017, Stump prosecuted a Nigerian man, a ringleader in a network of scammers.

Stump said romance scams are very real and growing. Federal investigators say it's happening all across our area, right now.

“We had hundreds of victims, 53 who had confirmed financial loss,” Stump said.

Stump said it can happen to anybody.

“If you are looking for love and then all of a sudden, you find it, it’s like winning the lottery,” Stump said.

Stump said most often the scammers will impersonate a member of the military, a contractor or businessman stationed overseas.

“Very quickly it will escalate into professions of love and the scammer saying they are soul mates and meant to be together," Stump said.

Then there is some type of emergency and the victims are asked for money transfers, electronics, cash or gift cards.

“If you had a boyfriend or a girlfriend and they need some help, you would help them. They know that's how most people would respond,” Stump said.

But Stump said there's one serious red flag.

If you are sending anything of value overseas to someone you've never met, you're probably being scammed.

Patty said she's embarrassed and unsure how she'll ever recover financially.

Her goal now is to warn others.

“I don't want any woman to go through something like this again,” Patty said.

Experts say you've got to question your loved ones if they say they are suddenly in a relationship with someone they've never physically met or if they're suddenly spending a lot of money on a new romance.

We have spoken with Travolta’s Hollywood management company to let them know about this.

You can most certainly report these crimes, especially to the federal government.

You can find more information here: https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx and https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1

Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

News 4 Investigates

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