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  • Writer's pictureRobin Lyons

Sweetheart Scam

If you know of person living alone, ask questions about any possible “love connections.” Winter and holidays are when many single people feel especially lonely—which makes them prime targets for scammers.

In 2020, the year the authorities arrested the brothers, in this case, the Federal Trade Commission reported consumers lost $201 million to romance scams. In 2022, they reported consumers lost $1.3 billion to romance scams.

Before I get to the case, I want to briefly touch on some methods scammers use. They typically lurk on social media sites and on dating websites. Men and women are scammed, but mostly women. Scammers pay close attention to what is being said and mirror the information. If you enjoy hiking—they enjoy hiking, etc. When they have excuses for why they can’t meet in person—BLOCK them and never speak to them again. They will sweet talk your money right out of your bank account—for their sick daughter or their aging mother. Don’t fall for it. Check on any single people you know and ask if they use dating programs. Prime age groups are 18-29 and over 55.

Here’s something you may not know. Scammers are just employees who receive a small percentage of the extorted money. Someone in another country runs the enterprise.

The brothers in this case, age 28 and 23, successfully scammed over 200 victims (in the U.S. and overseas) and raked in more than $6.2 million. They primarily targeted older women.

A common occupation scammers use is something far away from where their targeted victim lives. Here, in one example, one brother was supposedly an underwater welder from the U.S. working off the shore of another country.

After many online conversations, some romantic, the ‘welder’ asked for money to help pay his way to meet the victim and asked to borrow money. He may have needed money to cover medical expenses, or help his child who had been arrested, etc. Once the target sent the money, it was gone forever. Most times, not even the FBI can recover the stolen money.

Rather than go to trial, the brothers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money.

At the sentencing, an FBI special agent associated with the case said,

“Today’s sentencing demonstrates the FBI’s and our law enforcement partners’ commitment to pursuing justice for victims of elder fraud.”

A federal judge sentenced the older brother to three years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. His brother to 20 months, followed by three years of supervised release. The judge also ordered them to pay over $6 million in restitution. It’s doubtful they will pay the restitution.

The U.S. Department of Justice has a division dedicated to elder justice focusing on Social Security Imposter Scams, Tech Support Scams, Lottery Scams, Internal Revenue Service Scams, and Romance Scams. Here’s a safe link to check it out or share: DOJ SENIOR SCAMS

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