Local woman duped by love in 'catfish' scam

She warns women to be leery on free dating sites

SAN DIEGO - At 74 years old, she thought she had found love again, but instead a local woman may have been part of an elaborate scam.

Judi Curry contacted 10News after being "catfished" or duped into believing she was chatting online with someone pretending to be someone else.

She says her story should send a message for women who are looking for love on free online dating sites.

From her living room in Sunset Cliffs, Curry told 10News that she felt as if she had found love again.

"I love you more with each passing day. Hugs and kisses," she read from an online letter written to her.

She thought she had been chatting online and on the phone with a man from Imperial Beach named Thomas Radcliff. She had never met him in person, but through their conversations, he had swept her off her feet.

"The love letters he sent me were absolutely beautiful," she said. "They had said everything that any woman would want to hear. He said it very convincingly."

Curry lost her husband, Bob, to lung cancer four years ago. She still wears his wedding ring around on a gold chain around her neck.

They had been married for 46 years, so understandably, hearing such kind words and feeling wanted felt good.

"I just felt wanted," she said. "I felt like he really cared, and I was had."

She quickly realized she was part of what is known as a "catfish" scam, where someone who pretends to be someone they are not uses social media to pursue deceptive online romances.

Curry became suspicious when Radcliff called her by the wrong name.

"'Hugs and kisses, I love you more Paula,'" she said. But her name is not Paula, it is Judi.

Radcliff's and Curry's conversations abruptly ended not long after.

After digging around Radcliff's Facebook page, she found the real Paula online and they compared stories.

Radcliff was having online romances with both women. Curry found out that Paula began sending Radcliff money – at his urging – about two months into the relationship. Curry's relationship was just getting to that two-month mark. She was never asked nor ever sent money to the man, but she did contact the FBI.

"They told me that they get a thousand of these (calls) a month," she said.

Curry clarified those are the number of calls here in San Diego.

Still, she keeps a yellow folder filled with the letters he wrote her. She says it gives her hope.

"I am still hoping that it might be true," she said. "I know it's not, on a rational level. But it's hard for me to let it go. On a rational level I know how stupid that is."

She had this message for other women: "It can happen to anybody."

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