Daughter of $200K victim battles crooks with “Scammer Stories” podcast

Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 03/11/2020, 10:01 AM
Edited: 03/11/2021, 10:22 AM
(TULSA, Okla.) “It’s time. Because so many women have been brave enough to tell me their stories.” April Helm is no stranger to crime. As news director at KRMG under the radio name April Hill, it’s something she encounters on an everyday basis. But this was personal. “Scammer takes $200,000 from my sick mother” is the sixth episode of Scammer Stories, a podcast Helm started in February 2019. Helm’s father-in-law died from cancer several years ago. Then, in 2018, her mother found out she had cancer. The doctors said she had three years to live. She told Helm she was going to start online dating, something Helm encouraged. At first. Then her mother showed her a photo of a diamond mining certificate she received from a man named “Gerald Kumar” she met online. Helm said she knew right away. “The certificate was so obviously fake,” Helm said. But her mother bought into it, telling Helm she would be careful. Helm said when she reverse-image searched the diamond mining contract on Google, it popped up as a document scammers commonly used. Her mother refused to listen to her. And, despite urging her mother to not hand over any money to him, Helm received this text message from her mother less than two months later: “Gerald’s a scammer. He took $200,000 of my money. Come get me.” Her mom was broke. And Helm’s family depended on her to fix it. One of Helm’s aunts believed “Gerald” was real. The other aunt did not. “So one sister was mad at me for not supporting my mother in her new relationship,” Helm said. “And the other sister wasn’t very happy with me not being stern enough with my mother on talking to the scammer.” Needless to say, the scamming took a toll on the whole family. Left penniless, Helm told her mother she could come stay with her and her husband in one condition: she had to ditch the scammer. Again, her mother refused. Helm took her mother’s phone, stole the scammer’s number and began contacting him herself. At first she tried to make her mom seem unattractive. That didn’t work. Then she tried threatening him. That also didn’t work. Instead, Helm said he started trying to scam her, telling her he had a video of her that he was going to make public unless she paid up. Money he said he was going to use to feed starving children. Meanwhile, her mother continued to talk to him. “She became addicted to his attention,” Helm said. “What I’ve learned doing these podcasts and doing these interviews is, it’s just like a drug addiction. She’s always been an overweight woman so she’s got that insecurity going and she’s got this man that’s telling her she’s beautiful and he loves her and they talk constantly on the phone and she likes the attention.” Helm said she believed her mother’s mind was not what it once was after the cancer treatments, and the scammer preyed on that vulnerability. “This is not a stupid woman,” Helm said. “She’s not thinking with her brain anymore. She’s thinking with her heart.” Her mother listened to the podcast, Helm said, and was not mad. Though she was embarrassed. She joined Helm’s Scammer Stories Facebook page in September, receiving a warm welcome from other page followers. With more than 30 episodes under her belt, Helm continued to take scammers head-on. Past topics include but are not limited to other scammer victims and survivors, different types of scams, who is at risk and how other people can fight back. For Helm, her mission is clear. “There’s only one thing I can do and it’s because it’s what I do for a living,” Helm said. “And that is, broadcast the stories to others.” On February 27, Helm’s mother passed away. Helm recorded one last interview with her before she died. “The episode is the last conversation I had with my mom weeks before her death on what happened with her romance scam,” Helm said. “It's raw and candid. You can hear her confess and lie.” Helm said listeners will be able to hear for the first time how a romance scammer controlled her mother's mind. “Until the day she died, she was sending money,” Helm said. “He was the puppeteer on her relationship with her children and her medical treatment. He wanted her alive to use her. I'll never know the entire truth about what happened with my mother's romance scam, but I did get some answers." The episode is slated to premiere on Scammer Stories this Friday. Click here for episodes: https://www.buzzsprout.com/255162


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