Earlier this year, we discussed “romance scams” and how older people, in particular, are victimized by online scammers claiming to be interested in pursuing a relationship. They convince their victims to send them money to help them travel to see them or for some other bogus reason. Last year, as we noted, romance scams cost Americans a combined $143 million.
Romance scams are among the types of online fraud for which federal prosecutors are indicting 80 people. In announcing the indictment on Aug. 22, one U.S. Attorney called it “one of the largest cases of its kind in U.S. history.” The indictment follows a yearlong FBI-led investigation. The defendants, most of whom are Nigerian nationals, are accused of defrauding victims of a minimum of $6 million and attempts to get another $40 million. They’re also facing money laundering charges.
Fourteen were arrested in the U.S. Several others were in federal custody already. Still others are believed to be in the U.S., but haven’t been located. Eleven of those arrested were in and around Los Angeles.
Most of those named in the indictments are living in Nigeria or elsewhere overseas. A senior FBI official said, “In the days ahead, we will be working with our foreign counterparts in nine countries to apprehend 57 additional defendants.”
Many of the victims of the romance and other scams were elderly or otherwise easily susceptible to being conned. The U.S. attorney who announced the indictment said, “We are taking a major step to disrupt these criminal networks.”
Too often, people are embarrassed to learn that they’ve been taken in by online fraud. However, many of the people perpetrating these crimes are highly experienced. They do, as the federal prosecutor said, carry out “sophisticated” schemes that can fool intelligent people. If you have been victimized by an online or other type of scam, it’s wise to contact an attorney and determine what options you have for seeking justice.