How A Billion-Dollar Internet Scam Is Breaking Hearts

Jessica

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In case the news isn't depressing enough.....

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/romance-scams-online-fbi-facebook_us_59414c67e4b0d318548666f9

Criminal networks defraud lonely people around the world with false promises of love and romance.

By Ann Brenoff

Modern online romance scams are premeditated, organized crimes that steal millions ― potentially billions ― of dollars from vulnerable, lonely people over the internet.

The scammers may just have lit upon the perfect crime: They sit at computers safely overseas, hunting for their prey on social networks, and they rarely get caught. The victims are often left deeply damaged ― both financially and psychologically ― and so embarrassed that they’re reluctant to come forward even when they realize they’ve been scammed.

Those in a position to help quash this fraud, meanwhile, treat it like “a small brush fire, when actually it is a raging forest fire,” said Dr. Steve G. Jones. Jones is a victim too: His name and photos were stolen to create the fake identities used in romance scams.

In the U.S., romance scams account for the highest financial losses of all internet-facilitated crimes, the FBI reports. The bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center said it received 15,000 romance scam complaints last year ― a 20 percent increase over the previous year. Reported losses exceeded $230 million, but the FBI puts the true number much higher, estimating that only about 15 percent of these crimes are even being reported.

The odds of recovering that money, the bureau notes, are very low. Some of the money scammed by international criminal networks even winds up in the hands of terrorist operations like Boko Haram, according to Interpol.

HuffPost interviewed multiple women from six continents who had sent money to scammers they fell in love with online ― and who responded to HuffPost’s invitation on anti-scammer and other Facebook pages to talk about it.....
 
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