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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.
The woman believed she would be paying to have the money—including the repayment of her million—transferred to the U. from South Africa, where Charlie was still supposedly working.
In July 2016, the two Nigerian co-conspirators pleaded guilty in connection with their roles in the scam, and a federal judge sentenced them each to 36 months in prison last December.
But Charlie is still at large, presumably in Nigeria, and there may be little hope of bringing him to justice.
“This is a very difficult crime to prove,” Beining said.
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.Always use reputable websites, but assume that con artists are trolling even the most reputable dating and social media sites.