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Northland family discovers ‘catfishing’ scheme used to con senior woman of $30k

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's known as "catfishing," and one Northland family said their loved one fell victim to an online Romeo shortly before her passing in February.

That would-be lover boy convinced the senior woman to wire him thousands of dollars.

They called her "Aunt Jean," but she was Shirley Browning to everyone else. Her family here in Kansas City North is still grieving her passing this past winter.

Her sister, Sharon Lee, and her niece, Christina Powell, knew the 75-year-old widow had made a series of new friends on Facebook. Once Browning passed, the family said they found gift cards and receipts, proving she'd transferred as much as $30,000 to an online predator.

Shirley Browning

"It hurts, and I wish she'd have confided more in me," Lee said Monday.

Powell and Lee said they knew she'd been giving money to the man, who called himself "Compton," and they tried convincing her it was a scam.

"I think the first time, she wired him $2,800. She didn't tell anybody," Powell said.

According to her family, Browning had been widowed for more than a decade, and she was lonely. "Compton" the catfish told Browning he was the CEO of a Kansas City company, but he was stuck in Europe and needed money to return to the United States.

"She said, 'I saw his driver's license,'" Lee recalled. "I said, 'Shirley, you saw a driver's license. Not him.' You could not convince her for love nor money."

"He claimed to be from Kansas City, Missouri. He had an 816 phone number. They talked on the phone," Powell said.

Christina Powell and Sharon Lee

Powell and Lee said their aunt had been using gift cards from Google Play and iTunes to wire money to the man. Cashier receipts show the thousands she's entrusted to a scammer.

"They're preying on older people on the internet. They may not know exactly what they're doing on the internet, and they're just taking advantage of them," Powell lamented.

Browning`s family said employees at two banks, both of which held accounts in Browning's name, attempted to intervene and advise her she might be getting conned.

Powell said this is proof of how easy it is for seniors to get scammed.

Lee said this situation has left the family unable to pay for funeral and burial arrangements for Browning. The family has established a GoFundMe page where interested parties can donate.

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