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“The Internet makes this type of crime easy because you can pretend to be anybody you want to be.
You can be anywhere in the world and victimize people,” she said.
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.
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.
Always use reputable websites, but assume that con artists are trolling even the most reputable dating and social media sites.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, online romance scams account for higher financial losses than any other internet-based crime.
A part of her still wants to believe that Charlie is real and that their relationship was real—that the e-mail exchanges about church and the phone calls when they sang together and prayed together meant as much to him as they did to her.
She even holds out hope that one day Charlie will repay her, as he promised to do so many times. there can’t be a man in this world that could be this horrible to have purposefully done what he’s done to me.” The criminals who carry out romance scams are experts at what they do.
Otherwise, there is no doubt that he is a heartless criminal who robbed her and broke her heart—and who is almost certainly continuing to victimize other women in the same way.“I can’t even imagine a man, a person, that could be this bad,” she said. They spend hours honing their skills and sometimes keep journals on their victims to better understand how to manipulate and exploit them.“Behind the veil of romance, it’s a criminal enterprise like any other,” said Special Agent Christine Beining.
“He was saying all the right things,” she remembered. It’s called a romance scam, and this devastating Internet crime is on the rise.
The woman, in her 50s and struggling in her marriage, was happy to find someone to chat with. He was very positive, and I felt like there was a real connection there.”That connection would end up costing the woman million and an untold amount of heartache after the man she fell in love with—whom she never met in person—took her for every cent she had.“And once a victim becomes a victim, in that they send money, they will often be placed on what’s called a ‘sucker list,’ ” she said.