Elrod’s love affair began with the sort of dodgy Facebook message that most people delete on sight.
She discovered that message in March 2011, 20 months before opening her First Community account, while cleaning out her junk-strewn “Other” mailbox during a respite at a Charlotte mall.
She knew they’d soon spend hours gabbing on the phone, as was their daily habit.
The 45-year-old divorcée and junior-college dropout now lived in Bluefield, West Virginia, a fading town near the Appalachian coalfields where she’d been raised.
In addition to collecting $344 in unemployment benefits each week, Elrod made ends meet by hustling: She resold packages of discount toilet paper and peddled small quantities of prescription drugs.
The missive caught her eye because of the sender’s handsome profile photo, which showed a middle-aged man with a ruddy face, strong black eyebrows, and a welcoming gaze.
His name was Duke Gregor.“How beautiful is your picture Audrey,” the message read.
But more often than not, she ended the day no richer than she’d started.