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          Love Scams: "I Married a Catfish over the Phone"

          May 16, 2014

          Joy, 55, says three months ago, she “heart married” her online boyfriend, “Donny,” over the phone and is looking forward to meeting him in person for the first time — at their official wedding, later this year. She also admits she has sent him tens of thousands of dollars overseas — is she being scammed? Plus, get an update from former guest Sandie!

          The Romance

          Joy explains how she met the man of her dreams online and “heart married” him over the phone — without ever meeting him in person.

          There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the man in the photos that Joy believes to be “Donny” is named Donny Fore, and there’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that he is in any way associated with this scam. Someone has stolen his image off the Internet and decided to use it, is what it appears. We are showing these pictures knowing this man in these photographs is not a scammer.

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          “I’ve never been this happy.”

          Dr. Phil reviews what Joy knows about her betrothed.

          The Ruse?

          After shopping for her wedding dress and finding the one she wants, Joy calls “Donny” to share her excitement with him. She asks “Donny” for permission to record his voice, and he hangs up. Joy grows emotional as she reads his texts. “He’s telling me not to text him anymore,” she says. “He thinks I’m lying to him, and he thinks someone’s trying to track him down.” Joy breaks down in tears. “He’s saying no to everything. He won’t talk to me. He’s thinking of killing himself. He’s going back to work and leaving me. He’s telling me I think he’s a scammer, and I don’t believe him. Oh, he’ll never forgive me,” she says sadly.

          Back onstage with Dr. Phil, Joy says she and “Donny” have since made up. Dr. Phil asks about “Donny’s” accent, which he says doesn’t sound like an Alabama accent.

          “He’s not originally from this country. He is from the U.K. He came to this country as a kid with his parents and became a U.S. citizen. He has a French accent because he spent a lot of time around French people and picked up that accent when he was in the military.”

          Dr. Phil reviews Joy’s financial records — do they match her estimates of how much money she has sent “Donny”?

          Joy shares “Donny’s” emails that she says have stolen her heart. And, Dr. Phil delivers a wake-up call. “You are in a cut and paste romance.”

          Joy says “Donny,” who is currently stuck in a hotel in Cairo, Egypt, claims he’s a millionaire who has a mansion with servants in Alabama. A Dr. Phil producer goes in search of “Donny’s” home. What will she find?

          “My name is Donny.”

          Dr. Phil tells Joy that a private investigator found that “Donny’s” cell phone bill is in her name. “What he has done is used your personal information, and he has opened an account using your name, because the phone number you’re calling is you,” he says.

          Dr. Phil reads an email that was supposedly from “Donny’s” attorney, David Cohen, when they were preparing for their marriage over the phone: “‘Thanks for getting back to me. I have all what you send to me, and I will start the processing by Monday, because it already weekend, and I have a lot of work in court this week, and by God Grace, I will get back to you next week. Have a new weekend.’ I’d get me a different lawyer — that boy can’t write!”

          Dr. Phil welcomes barrister David Cohen, via Polycom from Canada, who says he has never had a client named “Donny Fore,” and therefore, did not send Joy any correspondence.

          “He has had his name misappropriated,” Dr. Phil informs Joy. “He is a lawyer of the highest reputation and been practicing for over 30 years. Just know, this guy is on the right side of this, not the wrong side.”

          Next, Dr. Phil introduces retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bill “Ajax” Peris. Dr. Phil asks him, “‘Donny’ claims that he’s in the Air Force, Troop C, First Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Bandits. Does the Air Force have a Cavalry?”
          “No, sir,” he says. “That is not an Air Force unit, and no one who knows anything about the Air Force would claim that that was an Air Force unit.” He also says there’s no such thing as being stuck in the Air Force for life if you’re not married, as “Donny” claims.

          The Realization

          Dr. Phil reveals the results of a voice analysis on “Donny.” Is this someone who grew up in the U.S.? And, Dr. Phil calls “Donny” on the phone.

          Lived and Learned

          Former guest Sandie sent over $63,000 to her overseas boyfriend — who turned out to be a scammer in Ghana. Since the show, Sandie says she eventually started dating again and has met a nice man who lives near her. “Dr. Phil told me to keep my eyes open to love, and I did,” she says. “There is a happy life on the other side, once you work through this.”

          She joins Joy onstage and says, “My heart goes out to Joy. I know exactly where she is right now, how she’s feeling. But I want her to know there really is life after this.” She tells her, “You’ve just got to realize that Dr. Phil is right, and this guy doesn’t exist. He’s not who he said he is.”

          “Is there any doubt in your mind?” Dr. Phil asks Joy.

          “It’s not real. It’s done,” she says.
          “You totally get it.”

          “Yes, I get it,” Joy says.

          Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Julie Albright, a digital sociologist who has studied the phenomenon of online relationships and scams.

          Dr. Albright says that online scams used to be about love, but the new scams, which she calls “spearfishing,” target lonely women for their money. “It’s not about a relationship, it’s about money,” she says.

          Dr. Phil tells Joy, “You went through a marriage that left you more than unsatisfied. It made you vulnerable to this kind of thing, because you had needs, and you wanted them to be met, but there’s a healthy way to meet those.” Dr. Phil offers her professional resources to help her heal from being taken advantage of and move on.

          Joy accepts.

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