Sunday, April 15, 2018
From the Atlantic:
The age of the internet, with its infinitude of strangers and swiftly evolving social mores, has also been good for con men. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, which tracks internet-facilitated criminal activity, received nearly 300,000 complaints in 2016, reporting total losses of more than $1.3 billion. Of those, more than 14,500 were for relationship fraud, a number that has more than doubled since 2011. In 2016, relationship scams were the second-most-costly form of internet fraud (after wire fraud), netting scammers nearly $220 million. By comparison, Americans lost only $31 million to phishing scams, about $2.5 million to ransomware attacks, and $1.6 million to phony charities.
The FBI warns that the most common targets of dating scams “are women over 40 who are divorced, widowed, and/or disabled.” In many cases, women are courted online by men who claim to be deployed in Afghanistan or tending an offshore oil rig in Qatar. After weeks or months of intimate emails, texts, and phone calls, the putative boyfriend will urgently need money to replace a broken laptop or buy a plane ticket home. Some, like Derek or “Dirty John” Meehan—whose romance scam was exposed last year by the Los Angeles Times—escalate an online relationship to an in-person con, going as far as living with their victims or even marrying them. Derek stands out for how remarkably prolific he was: He often had two or three separate relationship scams going at a time. When one woman discovered the truth, he’d quickly move on to another.
According to the Justice Department, only 15 percent of fraud victims report the crimes to law enforcement, largely due to “shame, guilt, embarrassment, and disbelief.” “You feel really crappy about yourself,” Missi told me, then slipped into a tone that sounded like the mean voice that lives inside her head: “I’m a stupid woman; I’m a dumb, dumb, dumbass.”
Read more here.