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  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 30, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , romance scam,   

    Celebrity romance scam had deadly consequences 

    By Greg Collier

    A pair of alleged romance scammers from New Jersey have been arrested after investigators discovered their involvement in scamming an elderly Tennessee man. The pair convinced the man that he was having an online relationship with a well-known female celebrity. Then the scammers convinced the man that they were with the FBI, and the celebrity was suing the man for harassment. That’s when the scammers started demanding money from their victim.

    The man was told he would need to pay fines to resolve the lawsuit. He sent the scammers a $5500 check. However, the check was made out to the FBI, meaning the scammers couldn’t cash the check. Apparently, the scammers were incensed by this because they told the man he would now have to pay $40,000 for failing to follow instructions. Before it was all over, the man paid close to $90,000 to the scammers, with him even taking out a loan on his car.

    It’s unknown if the man realized he was being scammed as he took his own life last month. After his passing, the man’s family found emails related to the scam and contacted police.

    We hope that our readers’ first thoughts when seeing this story aren’t “I would have never fallen for this scam.” If they were, we’d like to remind you that a man has been lost from his family due to the actions of greedy and reckless scammers. While you may not have fallen victim to this scam, there’s probably someone in your family who would. Now, imagine the heartbreak of losing them to a pointless scam like this.

    While most romance scams don’t veer off into police impersonation territory, always be wary of online relationships where your supposed partner can’t meet you in person. Also, please keep in mind that no law enforcement agency will ever ask you to make payments over the phone or through email.

    If you know someone who you suspect may be the target of a romance scam, please try to talk to them about such scams before they become victims.

    (If you or someone you know is contemplating the unthinkable, please know that there is no shame in reaching out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is accessible 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255, and you can also visit their website for support. You can also reach the lifeline by dialing 988. This new three-digit number is designed to provide easier access to mental health support services.)

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 21, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , romance scam,   

    IRS warns of romance scams 

    IRS warns of romance scams

    By Greg Collier

    When many people think of the Internal Revenue Service, they only think of having to pay their income tax to the government. However, the IRS also has a Criminal Investigation Office. These are the federal agents tasked with going after scammers and scam rings. Recently, the IRS sounded the alarm on romance scams after a Federal Trade Commission report said that over 70,000 people lost a combined total of $1.3 billion in 2022. And those are only the ones the government knows about. Many romance scam victims never come forward out of embarrassment.

    If you’re unfamiliar with romance scams, they mostly target women, but it’s not unheard of for men to be victims as well. Romance scammers also tend to target the elderly as well, but anyone of any age can be a victim.

    These scammers largely find their victims on social media, dating platforms, and sometimes online games. Romance scammers are very patient and will trick their victims into believing that they’re in a real relationship. More often than not, the scammers will pose as someone living or working overseas. The victims will experience a process known as ‘love bombing’ where the scammer will dote on their victims with little romantic touches.

    These relationships will be cultivated by the scammers for months before they finally approach their victims for money. The scammer will usually have a story about how some kind of emergency has come up, and since they’re overseas, they can’t access their own money. Or they’ll claim they need the money as part of an investment in their business. All the while, the scammers will promise their victims they’ll repay the money when they finally meet in person.

    Except, romance scammers will never meet their victims in person. Often these scammers use someone else’s identity that they found online. They’ll use pictures of other people they stole from social media, and even use that person’s name in their scam. But, they’ll continue to ask for money until the victim is either broke or finally catches on to the scam.

    Here are some recommendations from the IRS to help you steer clear of falling prey to romance scams. Refrain from sending money to individuals you’ve only interacted with online or via phone. Exercise caution when sharing information publicly on the internet. Approach new relationships with a deliberate pace and ask probing questions. Stay vigilant if someone appears too flawless or hastily urges you to transition from a dating service or social media platform to alternative means of communication. Be wary of individuals attempting to isolate you from your circle of friends and family. Avoid sharing inappropriate images or financial details that could potentially be exploited for extortion. And lastly, exercise suspicion if promises of an in-person meeting are made but never materialize.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 10, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ChatGPT, romance scam,   

    Scammers employ new weapon in romance scams 

    By Greg Collier

    Whenever someone develops a new and useful tool, it’s only a matter of time before someone uses it for criminal purposes. The large language model ChatGPT was released to the public last year. Essentially, you can give ChatGPT any kind of prompt, and it will write it out for you. Want to write a professional sounding email to a prospective employer, it can do that for you. Want to have it write a script about Batman meeting Abraham Lincoln? It can do that too. Do you want to have ChatGPT craft the best romantic responses to keep a lonely victim believing they’re in a committed online relationship? Unfortunately, it can do that too.

    According to cybersecurity experts, scammers have developed their own chat AI that will produce authentic looking messages to romance scam victims. For the initiated, romance scammers typically prey on the single and widowed by pretending to be an online romantic interest. These scammers will cultivate a phony online relationship using fake names and pictures, along with a story about how they can’t meet in public. The scammers will cultivate these relationships for months before asking the victim for money. Victims have lost thousands of dollars and even up to millions of dollars each to these scammers.

    Now, armed with an AI chatbot of their own, romance scammers almost have a ‘set it and forget it’ setting for running their scams.

    However, while this may make the romance scam appear more like a legitimate relationship, the steps someone can take to protect themselves are still the same. Anytime a prospective partner sends you a picture of themselves, use Google’s reverse image search to make sure they didn’t steal it from someone else’s social media. If they claim to be working overseas or somewhere where they can’t travel from freely, there’s a good chance they’re a scammer. Lastly, if they ask for money without meeting first, it’s almost guaranteed that they’re a scammer.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 27, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , romance scam,   

    Widow strung along for years in ‘pig butchering’ romance scam 

    Widow strung along for years in 'pig butchering' romance scam

    By Greg Collier

    You might think it was Valentine’s Day with all the recent news about romance scams lately. However, the recent spate of romance victims coming forward not only shows that romance scams can happen at any time, but also how nefarious they really are. Yet, there is a romance scam that stands above all the others, as it has claimed tens of thousands to upwards of a million dollars from its individual victims.

    It’s called the pig butchering scam because the scammer ‘fattens up’ their victims using emotional manipulation before leading their victim to the financial slaughterhouse. While it may sound violent, it’s not, but can be just as devastating and traumatic.

    After gaining the victim’s trust, scammers convince them to invest in cryptocurrency. They guide the victim to a fake cryptocurrency exchange they control, making it seem like the investment is growing quickly. But when the victim tries to take out their supposed profits, they’re told they need to pay more money before they can get their earnings. No matter how much they pay, the victim never gets any returns.

    A widow from Baltimore recently came forward with her story about falling for this scam. She was just playing the online game Words with Friends when she was approached by her scammer. This is a good example of the innocuous places where scammers can lie in wait for their victims. Who expects to run into a scammer in such an innocent game?

    The scammer claimed to be a man named Micheal who was working overseas in Turkey. He claimed to be a widower with children around the same age as the victim’s children. Romance scammers will often assume the identity of someone who closely resembles their victims.

    After striking up a relationship with the victim, the scammer moved the conversation away from the game and on to the WhatsApp messaging app. This is another red flag, as scammers will try to get their victims away from the platform where they first met so no one will see their messages to their victim.

    While some scammers can wait months before asking their victims for money, this scammer waited an entire year before asking his victim for money. In that year, he was showering the victim with affection, talking about how they were going to get married and buy a home together. This is known as ‘love bombing’.

    Then the scammer convinced the woman to invest $35,000 into cryptocurrency. He directed her to a phony cryptocurrency exchange that was supposedly based in the UK. After sending in her $35,000, the phony exchange made it appears as if she made close to a million dollars. Except, she couldn’t take the money out of the exchange without paying a $17,000 ‘processing fee’. All the while, the scammer kept convincing her the money was real. The victim even paid money to ‘Michael’ to help pay the bills for a car accident Michael’s son was in. Once scammers know they have hooked their victim, they’ll keep asking for money until there’s no money left, and will still keep asking. Other victims of romance scams have taken out loans and even embezzled to send money to who they think is their romantic partner. The victim in today’s story kept giving money to the victim even after a friend warned her this could be a scam.

    While you may recognize a romance scam, someone you know may not. If you think someone you know is being scammed, don’t be judgmental, but show them this blog post or other news articles about the scam. Recognize that it may take time for your friend to come to terms with the possibility that they’re dealing with a scam. Be patient and continue to provide support. Ultimately, your role is to provide guidance and support while respecting your friend’s autonomy. It’s essential to strike a balance between offering assistance and allowing them to make their own decisions.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 22, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: romance scam,   

    Widow homeless after romance scam 

    Widow homeless after romance scam
    (Stock Photo)

    By Greg Collier

    As we featured in our last post about romance scams, romance scammers will lead their victims on for months before asking for any money. Meanwhile, these scammers are manipulating the emotions of people who are just looking to stave off loneliness. People whose partners have passed away are often targets for romance scammers.

    It’s not just a few bucks we’re talking about, either. We’ve seen reports where romance scam victims have lost anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to over a million dollars. Romance scammers are in it for the long haul and are willing to wait a long time to get money like that. And it’s not just money that the victims lose.

    A widow from the state of Georgia struck up a relationship with a man she met online. The man claimed to have lost his wife as well. He also claimed to be a doctor working for the Red Cross in Yemen. If someone isn’t aware of how the romance scam works, they may just think they’ve met an incredible partner. Not only is the man supposedly a doctor, but he’s working for a charity overseas in a war-torn country.

    Those who are familiar with the scam will recognize the red flags. Romance scammers almost always claim to either have some high-paying position or are in the military. The Middle-East is a popular location for scammers to claim where they’re working at. Due to the political instabilities in many Middle-Eastern countries, scammers use these to concoct many excuses for either their money requests or why they can’t meet in person. We’ll get to more of that shortly.

    Getting back to the story at hand, the scammer in this story told the Georgia widow he wanted to buy a house with her in Cary, North Carolina. The scammer claimed he would pay $600,000 for the home, while all she would need to pay would be $78,000 that she needed to wire to him, which she did.

    She was provided with an address and pictures of the house in Cary. When she arrived there with all her belongings, she discovered someone was already living there. That’s when she realized she had been scammed. She tried confronting the scammer, but the scammer stuck with his story, even sending her a picture supposedly showing that he had been beaten up in Yemen.

    Now, the widow has very little to her name except for a camper which someone from a local church donated to her. She should be commended for having the bravery to share her story publicly, as many victims don’t. According to the Federal Trade Commission, victims lost more than a billion dollars to romance scams, and that’s only from the ones who came forward.

    Romance scams raise significant warning signals. These scams exclusively rely on online communication and often involve the perpetrator sharing a heart-wrenching narrative. Moreover, if at any point you are solicited for money, whether through wire transfers, Bitcoin purchases, or gift card requests, consider it a definitive indicator of a scam.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 12, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , romance scam,   

    Just how methodical are romance scammers? 

    Just how methodical are romance scammers?

    By Greg Collier

    There seems to be this impression that victims of romance scams are just lonely and lovesick people who fall head over heels for their scammer immediately. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Romance scammers are very good at what they do and are very meticulous in grooming their victims. The scammer could string their victim along for months before they even think about asking for money.

    For example, a Massachusetts woman met her scammer in October of last year. She met him on a dating site, and she believed he was a hardworking widower. The victim states that the scammer acted like a perfect gentleman and gave no hint of being a con artist.

    He claimed to be an oil pipeline worker, who was on a job in Saudi Arabia. For those who are familiar with romance scams, this would have been a double red flag. Not only do romance scammers often pose as people who work overseas, they also pose as offshore oil rig workers. Both of these are done so the scammer can maintain plausible deniability as to why they can’t meet in person.

    Getting back to the story, the scammer provided the woman with a copy of his passport, and the couple even had video calls together. The news report does not go into specifics, but we have to wonder if some kind of AI was involved in the video calls or if this was a case of a brief video before the scammer claimed his camera malfunctioned. Either way, the victim had no reason to believe she was on the road to being scammed.

    It wasn’t for another six months before the scammer started asking the victim for money. He told her that he was having trouble accessing his bank account and needed to buy a specific part to do his job. Once the victim sent the money after this first request, subsequent requests for money followed. Before it was all over, the victim had sent $200,000 to her scammer. It wasn’t until he failed to meet her at the airport when she realized she was being scammed. The scammer claimed to be in the hospital after a car crash.

    However, the scammer continued to call her asking for money. When that didn’t work, the scammer posed as an FBI agent, telling her not to talk to anyone about being scammed. So on top of a romance scam, we get a police impersonation scam as well. There is no depth scammers won’t sink to.

    In conclusion, the tales of romance scammers who invest months in their deceitful ploys serve as a stark reminder of the need for vigilance and caution in the digital age. These cunning individuals manipulate emotions, trust, and vulnerability to achieve their malicious goals. By sharing stories and raising awareness about this issue, we empower ourselves and our loved ones to recognize the signs and protect against such heart-wrenching scams.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 5, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , romance scam,   

    Both rich and poor can fall for romance scams 

    By Greg Collier

    Within the past year or so, when it comes to romance scams, all the talk has been around the pig butchering scam. This is when romance scammers get their victims to invest in a phony cryptocurrency exchange. Victims of the pig butchering scam tend to be on the more wealthy side, with victims losing tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars each. This may lull people who don’t make as much money into a false sense of security. But believe us when we say scammers don’t care how much or little you make. They’ll try to take it anyway.

    For example, a man from Tulsa, Oklahoma, recently came forward to his local media about being the victim of a romance scam. The scammers claimed to be a woman in the military stationed in Iraq, and they were lonely and just needed someone to talk to. It quickly became a romantic relationship.

    As with every romance scam, the requests for money eventually happened. The scammer claimed their bank account was frozen, and they needed money to pay for internet in Iraq, so they could keep communicating. Before the man knew it, he was sending gift cards of $100 a month to the scammer. This relationship went on for about 18-months.

    We’re pretty sure the victims of pig butchering scams wish they only lost $100 a month to their scams. However, the victim in today’s story is a man who is disabled and living on a fixed income. To him, this could be the equivalent of the other victims losing six figures to the scammers. He was also probably not the scammer’s only victim. There could be dozens of other victims the scammers are taking $100 a month from. This could add up to thousands of dollars a month very quickly. No matter how much or how little someone makes, scammers will look to take a big chunk of it, if not all of it.

    If you have doubts about someone’s identity, do some research. You can use reverse image searches to check if their profile picture appears elsewhere on the internet. Scammers often use stolen photos. Never send money or gifts to someone you’ve only met online, regardless of their sob story or urgent requests. Scammers often ask for money for emergencies, travel expenses, or to help with various crises. Discuss your online relationships with trusted friends and family members. They can provide valuable perspective and help you stay grounded in reality.

    Remember that scammers are skilled at manipulating emotions and creating elaborate stories. They can be very convincing, so it’s essential to stay vigilant and prioritize your safety when forming online relationships. If you’re unsure about someone’s intentions, seek advice from trusted sources before taking any further steps.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 10, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: romance scam,   

    Victim loses everything to romance scam 

    By Greg Collier

    She’s young. She was successful. She’s a professional therapist who had her own private practice. She doesn’t fit the profile of your typical romance scam victim. Yet, she and her children are bing sheltered at a church because she lost everything in a romance scam.

    A romance scam occurs when scammers fabricate fraudulent online personas to establish a sense of trust with their targets, often aiming to swindle them out of funds. Employing tactics of flattery, emotional maneuvering, and counterfeit images and aliases, the perpetrator gradually forges a connection with the victim. Once this bond is solidified, the scammer commonly solicits money or sensitive particulars, such as bank account specifics or credit card data. The impact of romance scams can be especially devastating, as victims might experience humiliation or guilt, deterring them from reporting the offense to law enforcement.

    The victim in today’s scam was approached by a man through her TikTok account. She was becoming quite smitten with the man, but ended up blocking him because she received warnings from other women that the man was asking them for money. That didn’t deter the scammer, as they came back under a new alias.

    The scammer then used the name of a famous fitness YouTuber with over one million followers. The YouTuber’s identity was assumed by the scammer, with the scammer using the YouTuber’s pictures as their own. The scammer even went as far as to email the victim while posing as the YouTuber’s mother, frequently asking the victim how she was doing.

    Like in most romance scams, the scammer would never allow video calls or have videos sent to the victim. They claimed that due to their fame, they couldn’t let private videos or pictures become public.

    Then the requests for money started. It started out small, like for the price of a pizza, then increased from there.

    The scammer even convinced the victim they were about to get married. She ended up selling everything she owned, thinking they were going to elope this month. Of course, the marriage never came to pass, and after sending so much money to the scammer, she and her family are now homeless.

    The allure of scams can ensnare even the most cautious individuals due to their clever tactics and exploitation of human psychology. Scammers often prey on people’s vulnerabilities, using persuasive techniques that exploit emotions such as fear, greed, or trust. A combination of social engineering, sophisticated technology, and convincing storytelling can create an illusion of legitimacy. Additionally, the fast-paced nature of modern life can lead to hasty decision-making and a lack of thorough scrutiny. In a digital era where information is abundant and connections are formed online, anyone can become a target. In essence, anyone can fall for a scam.

    When encountering a potential romantic interest online, it’s advisable to initiate a reverse image search on their photograph as a first step. Scammers frequently appropriate images from unsuspecting individuals’ social media accounts, unbeknownst to the actual owners, for use in romance scams. If your potential partner appears evasive about meeting face-to-face, it often serves as a noteworthy sign of a possible scam. Similarly, if you’re engaging through a dating app or platform and are urged to shift the conversation away from that platform, this could indicate a potential scam. Notably, a significant warning sign is if they request monetary assistance before an in-person meeting.

    When attempting to assist someone who might be ensnared in a romance scam, it’s often challenging to persuade them of the deception. Sharing this blog post or other relevant articles that outline the mechanics of a romance scam could be beneficial in helping them recognize the situation.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 30, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , romance scam,   

    Why this crypto-romance scam is more successful than others 

    By Greg Collier

    Romance scams predate the internet. But back in those days, the scammer had to at least be there in person to scam their victim. Since then, online and long-distance relationships have become more socially acceptable. That has made the romance scammer’s job easier. Now, the scammers don’t even have to leave their homes to scam someone who could literally be living somewhere on the other side of Earth.

    However, more and more people have become more educated on the typical romance scam. That’s when the scammer will target a victim, cultivate an online romantic relationship with their victim, before asking the victim for large amounts of money. Unfortunately, that hasn’t deterred scammers in the least. When one scam stops being profitable, scammers will move on to another scam. And as far as the romance scam goes, the scammers have really stepped it up with their latest version.

    We’ve discussed it before. It’s known as the ‘pig butchering’ scam. It’s called that because the scammers make the victim think they’re being ‘fattened up’ financially, before the scammers lead them to the proverbial slaughter. After successfully establishing trust with their target, scammers proceed to encourage the victim to invest in cryptocurrency. They direct the victim towards a fraudulent cryptocurrency exchange operated by the scammer group. This deceptive exchange creates the illusion that the victim’s investment is experiencing rapid and significant growth. Unfortunately, when the victim attempts to withdraw their alleged profits, they are informed that an additional payment must be made before they can access their windfall. It doesn’t matter how much the victim pays, they’ll never see any return.

    This recently happened to a man in the Boston area. The man was even fully aware of the typical romance scam. When the man’s online partner started bringing up cryptocurrency, the man even said, “I’m not giving you any money.” But as scammers always do, they had an answer for the man. They told him, “No, you don’t give it to me. You establish your own account, and I’ll guide you.”

    And that’s what makes the pig butchering scam so successful for scammers. Victims think they’re accessing a legitimate cryptocurrency exchange when, in reality, it’s part of the scam. Unfortunately, the Boston man lost $300,000 in the scam.

    The cryptocurrency market is volatile enough that people don’t need scammers to help them lose their money. Only invest in cryptocurrency if you’ve studied the subject yourself. If someone you’ve never met face-to-face starts suggesting you invest in it with their guidance, there’s a very good chance they’re not who they say they are.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 12, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , romance scam,   

    Romance scammers threaten more than your heart 

    Romance scammers threaten more than your heart

    By Greg Collier

    One of the more lucrative romance scams is what’s known as the ‘pig butchering’ scam. It got this unfortunate name because the scammers will virtually ‘fatten’ their victims before leading them to financial slaughter.

    Typically, in a pig butchering scam, it starts off like any other romance scam. Once the scammer has gained their victim’s confidence, the scammer will advise the victim to invest in cryptocurrency. The victim is directed to a phony cryptocurrency exchange run by the scammers. The phony exchange will make it appear as if the victim’s investment is multiplying by leaps and bounds. However, once the victim tries to reap their supposed profits, they’re told they need to make an additional payment before their windfall can be released.

    This cycle can continue repeatedly if a victim does not realize they’re being scammed. Historically, when a victim realizes they’re being scammed, the scammers just disappear with the victim’s money. But in some cases, the scammers will continue to try to extort money from the victim.

    For example, a man in Iowa fell victim to the scam to the tune of $232,000. The man received an errant text message from an unknown woman. The woman said the text was meant from someone else, but the pair struck up a friendship anyway. The friendship then turned into more of a romantic relationship. After three months of this online relationship, the woman said she made a substantial amount of money through cryptocurrency, and would help the man do the same.

    Unfortunately, the man emptied his retirement account, took out a bank loan, and borrowed money from his mother, so he could make the initial $232,000 investment. He was told his investment grew almost instantly into $1.1 million, but when he tried to access that money, he was told he’d need to pay another $100,000 disguised as a tax payment.

    When the man refused to pay the money, his ‘girlfriend’ started threatening him with revealing their relationship to the man’s family. She also threatened the man’s family with violence and said she had hired agents to kill the man to harvest his organs for the black market.

    While these threats may seem convincing, the majority of these scammers are overseas and have no way of carrying out these threats.

    In order to safeguard yourself against this kind of fraudulent activity, it is crucial to steer clear of individuals who promise to assist you in earning money through cryptocurrency, especially if you haven’t had any face-to-face interactions with them. It’s important to note that cryptocurrency markets exhibit high levels of volatility, thereby increasing the likelihood of legitimate investments transforming into losses within a short span of time. Additionally, it is worth noting that scammers and cybercriminals often favor cryptocurrency as a means of payment.

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