Thousands of people get scammed daily. In the United States, one in ten adults will fall victim to a scam or fraud every year. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the number of victims jumps higher and higher every year.
The following stories are from the podcast The Perfect Scam. The podcast aims to empower victims to tell their stories and draw them away from the shame and guilt victims often face.
People feel that scams can’t happen or that they would never fall for them. However, scams victimize people daily, and many scams have increased in sophistication. Remember that scammers make every possible effort to make their operations seem legitimate.
Romance Scams: Lisa & Debbie
Lisa, a 68-year-old woman, lost her husband at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. She turned to the internet for comfort and support groups.
Lisa then participated in cyber-relationships. Requests for money began to flood in: help with a child’s expenses, money for internet access, and more.
Lisa’s daughter Christine realized how influential these romance fraud relationships were to Lisa when Lisa kept stepping away from a family trip to communicate with these strangers online.
Christine then realized Lisa didn’t have any money left in her savings. Lisa had emptied her bank account, sold valuable items, and even took out a title loan on her car.
“Anything I said to her, I was crazy, I was trying to stop her from meeting her love, I was trying to control her,” Christine said. An examination of Lisa’s receipts showed that Lisa sent at least $120,000 to the romance scammers within several months.
Unfortunately, the money Lisa had been scammed out of has yet to be recovered. Her life savings are virtually gone.
According to the FBI, romance scams cost victims over $600 million in 2020. Romance scams often happen in online dating spaces. If you use online dating sites, always request a meeting in person when the relationship becomes serious.
Especially with an online relationship, you should have a phone and video call with the other person as soon as possible. Never agree to send gift cards or money if you have not yet met the person through the call or video chat.
Debbie, a widow in her 70s, experienced a similar scam. She met “Joshua” during a game of Words With Friends.
Joshua was patient, and it was months after their first chat before Debbie agreed to a more serious online relationship.
However, the normal relationship soon progressed to a series of requests for money. Joshua claimed the money was for passport problems, son troubles, legal problems, and more. Debbie once even stuffed tens of thousands of dollars into a FedEx envelope and mailed it to him.
Her son Ben realized that his mom had cashed out her retirement accounts. In the end, she had lost $300,000.
These scams are devastating for not just their victims but also their family members. To know that your family member has been victimized is not easy.
Sweepstakes Scams: Mary
Mary, a widow in her 70s, taught financial planning courses and now led a quiet life. One day, she received a letter from American Sweepstakes claiming she had won almost $5.5 million.
She was urged to contact a man named Robert Carson to receive the funds. Here is a red flag for scams. A message that exudes a sense of urgency is likely a scam.
Robert claimed she must pay about $25,000 in taxes before receiving her prize. Mary was skeptical but did so anyways. She was scammed.
But, before sending the money, she threatened Robert that she would make him pay if she were being lied to.
Years later, Mary testified at the scammers’ trials. Four years after Mary received the letter, the head person responsible for the widespread scam was sentenced to six years in federal prison.
Over 27 suspects were arrested for victimizing over 90 victims in the same way they had hurt Mary.
The victims’ losses ranged from $199 to $850,000. One committed suicide after the scam.
The impact scams have on their victims is devasting. It is fulfilling to know that these cybercriminals were brought to justice for their crimes.
Investment Scams: Steve
Steve, a retired 65-year-old, one day received an investment opportunity. The callers sounded professional and well-versed in investment matters.
Steve’s questions were well-answered, and further contact was made with “senior advisors.”
Over the next 12 months, Steve invested a total of $200,000. His confidence was bolstered by a professional looking website that said his money was increasing as the market “went up.”
However, the website went down. Then, he could no longer access his account or contact the “investors” via phone. He then realized he was scammed.
Through research, Steve discovered that the company was fake and wasn’t even registered with the Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC).
To add insult to injury, Steve was then targeted by “follow-up scams.” In these scams, scammers promise to get the lost money back from other scammers.
Be careful about too-good-to-be-to investment prospects, and always make investment decisions with the help of third-party opinions. This story was shared by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.
How To Protect Your Digital Life
Scams are often successful when scammers know more about their victims.
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