SAN ANTONIO - A Texas woman was scammed out of $2 million in a fake online romance scheme.
The unidentified woman met “Charlie” online and started a relationship with him.
She never met Charlie, but he had seen her Facebook profile and saw that she posted often about her Christian beliefs.
“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,” Special Agent Christine Beining said.
The pair’s Facebook friendship turned into emails, then sharing pictures and phone calls where they would sing and pray together.
Charlie told the woman he was in construction -- a common job scammers use to say they need money.
Romance scammers will suddenly need money for a medical emergency or unexpected legal fee.
The woman started sending Charlie money over the course of two years, before her financial advisor became suspicious.
The subsequent investigation led by Beining resulted in the arrest of two Nigerians posing as South African diplomats who had come to the U.S. to collect money from the woman on behalf of Charlie, according to the FBI.
Charlie, however, is still at large.
“This is a very difficult crime to prove,” Beining said. “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. It’s identifying who they actually are that’s the hard part. That is why this individual remains a fugitive.”
The FBI offers the following tips to help you stay safe online:
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
- Go slow and ask lots of questions.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or Facebook to go “offline.”
- Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
- Beware if the individual promises to meet in person, but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
- Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally. “If you don’t know them, don’t send money,” Beining said. “You will see what their true intentions are after that.”
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