“He was saying all the right things,” she remembered. It’s called a romance scam, and this devastating Internet crime is on the rise.
The woman, in her 50s and struggling in her marriage, was happy to find someone to chat with. He was very positive, and I felt like there was a real connection there.”That connection would end up costing the woman million and an untold amount of heartache after the man she fell in love with—whom she never met in person—took her for every cent she had.
In each case, the victims were taken for abortions with no report being made by the abortion providers.
It is important to understand several things about these cases.
Victims—predominantly older widowed or divorced women targeted by criminal groups usually from Nigeria—are, for the most part, computer literate and educated. And con artists know exactly how to exploit that vulnerability because potential victims freely post details about their lives and personalities on dating and social media sites.
Trolling for victims online “is like throwing a fishing line,” said Special Agent Christine Beining, a veteran financial fraud investigator in the FBI’s Houston Division who has seen a substantial increase in the number of romance scam cases.
“It’s not just the finances, it’s the emotional part, too—being embarrassed, being ashamed, being humiliated.” Even now, though, she remains conflicted.
The cases contained here are instances of criminal prosecutions against men who have been caught having illegal sexual relationships with minor girls.“And once a victim becomes a victim, in that they send money, they will often be placed on what’s called a ‘sucker list,’ ” she said.“Their names and identities are shared with other criminals, and they may be targeted in the future.”To stay safe online, be careful what you post, because scammers can use that information against you.But once the situation was eventually revealed to the authorities, the perpetrator was arrested and the abuse ended immediately.This illustrates why compliance with these laws is such an indispensable tool for dealing with our national epidemic of older males sexually exploiting underage girls.“The perpetrators will reach out to a lot of people on various networking sites to find somebody who may be a good target.Then they use what the victims have on their profile pages and try to work those relationships and see which ones develop.” The subsequent investigation led by Beining resulted in the arrest of two Nigerians posing as South African diplomats who had come to the U. to collect money from the woman on behalf of Charlie, who claimed he was paid million for a construction project he completed in South Africa.“When someone is using a computer to hide behind, the hardest thing to find out is who they are.We can find out where in the world their computer is being used.But with an Internet crime like this, it’s much more difficult.”As for the Texas woman, she came forward “because I don’t want this to happen to anybody else.I not only invested money in this man but there is a big, huge piece of my heart that I invested in him,” she said.