Internet Dating and Romance Scams

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Minnesota woman taken in online scam about love and money

Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
Updated: February 28, 2012 – 10:13 PM

She lost $1,000; alert bank worker prevented bigger loss. Two are in custody in London.
Law enforcers in Minnesota have helped unravel a suspected international romance and money-laundering scam that duped a Rice County woman and others around the world into thinking they were helping finance a business venture related to the 2012 Olympics in London, authorities said Tuesday.

Now under arrest and charged in London are a 24-year-old Nigerian man and a 39-year-old Argentine woman, state officials said.

A state investigator spoke with two other victims — in Colorado and Pennsylvania — and learned they had losses from the suspected scam exceeding $250,000.

And while the woman in Rice County is already out $1,000, she could have lost another $50,000 if not for an alert bank employee, the officials said.

According to the state Department of Public Safety:

In December 2011, the Rice County Sheriff’s Office approached the department’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED) for assistance in a suspected fraud case involving a 69-year-old woman who had met one of the suspects on match.com and wired $1,000 to an account in London.

The suspect, who said he lived in Milwaukee, asked for another $50,000 from her, but that transfer was thwarted when bank officials became suspicious and alerted AGED.

The woman turned over to state and county authorities the bank account number that received her money. With that information, investigators directed their counterparts in London to the suspects. Their bank accounts also were frozen.

Jim Arlt, a senior special agent with AGED, said Tuesday that when he last spoke with the Rice County woman “she was still struggling with coming to the realization that this was a scam and she hadn’t met someone [online] in Milwaukee.”

Arlt said that had Minnesota bank officials not become suspicious “there was a very strong possibility of her losing a lot more” than that $50,000 she wanted to send. Sgt. Joe Yetzer of the Rice County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday that authorities are sending information from the woman’s computer to authorities in London for forensic tests. He said that to his knowledge, no one else in Rice County or Minnesota has been victimized.

“It does happen and it can happen locally,” Yetzer said. “Hopefully, if other people see the stories, maybe that’ll help keep them from becoming victims, too.”

Arlt said authorities in London prevented him from identifying the suspects by name.

In a recent news account, the London Telegraph said at least three people have been arrested in what has been dubbed “Operation Podium.”

In total, British authorities have arrested nearly 100 people using various online scams associated with the London Games, the newspaper said.

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March 7, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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