How can one make almost $300,000 without working or winning the lottery? There are different ways. That is if you’re ready to commit crimes. One of them is tricking people. Scammers and fraudsters are ubiquitous these days. Moreover, since the pandemic, their number has increased. This happened especially on the Internet. This environment shields scammers with anonymity. Everyone can be anyone online. This is also the case of online love scams.
Many such incidents occurred in recent years. Only in 2020 consumers lost more than $300 million to fake cyber sweethearts. People who fall for these scams don’t fit a particular pattern. There have been young and old victims alike. However, con artists normally go for wealthier victims. Naturally, they sense there’s a lot to gain there.
Let’s explore a recent online love scam that took place in Maryland. The author was a man. You’ve already found out the outcome for the victims – $270,000 in losses.
How Did the Man Operate?
Learning how these con artists work is helpful. You never know when you can become a target. Falling for these scams is not difficult. Moreover, you don’t have to be a social media or dating app addict. Using Tinder or dating websites just once can be enough. Yours might be the profile the scammer starts targeting.
In the case of the Maryland man, we are dealing with multiple victims. This is not uncommon at all. To gather life-changing amounts, cybercrooks often target multiple victims. Naturally, some get lost along the way. But they stick to those who are easier to trick.
The con artist in our case is Eugene Johnson Jr., 39, from Leonardtown. The man conned eight women out of nearly $270,000. He used different dating websites. The entire scheme lasted for four years. This is not unusual either because love scammers need time. They need it to lure their victims. Gaining trust is essential in these crimes. And it can take months to earn a victim’s trust. Then, once they have it, they act.
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Who Were the Victims?
The women of different ages were based in three states. Eugene met them through dating websites such as Plenty of Fish. He didn’t use his real name. This is not necessarily a red flag. Many people use aliases or nicknames on dating websites. However, crooks also use them to hide their real identity.
After reaching out to the women, the scammer got their contact details. So, he communicated with them mainly by calling or texting. Furthermore, he not only used fake names. But he also invented a new identity for himself. For example, he pretended to be a U.S. Marine and a widower. He also said he had a son. More so, he pretended he was looking for something serious. He claimed he wanted to marry each one of the eight women. Then, move in with them.
How Do Love Scammers Make Money?
This is probably the most challenging part of the scam. Love crooks often ask for loans. They pretend they need lots of money for something urgent. It can be a health issue. Being stranded in a different country or having large debts are other pretexts. This is what Johnson also did. He claimed he had severe financial difficulties. He needed money either for health problems or for legal issues. Hence, he asked his online dating partners for help. He also promised he would pay them back.
The women fell for his lies and paid. They transferred money through Western Union, MoneyGram, UPS, or FedEx. Naturally, every woman believed she was unique. None of them knew about the existence of the others.
This is another common element in online love scams. The author makes the victim feel one of a kind. He or she also promises a real-life relationship soon. However, that never materializes. Moreover, the victim and criminal often never meet face to face. All the communication takes place over the internet or phone. Yet, the scammer makes repetitive face-to-face meetings promises. Therefore, he conquers the victim’s heart even more. And he nurtures hope for a stable relationship.
How Did the Legal Case Unfold?
At a point, love scam victims realize they were conned. This usually happens soon after paying their cyber sweethearts. Scammers normally don’t waste any time. After they get the money, they’re gone. This minimizes the risk of getting caught. It also implies less work. They no longer struggle to maintain fake love relationships. They simply disappear without a trace.
However, this might not be the smartest move. Sticking around for a bit more might help. Thus, they could continue to nurture trust. Consequently, victims wouldn’t suspect them of theft. And they wouldn’t rush to contact the authorities to report the scam.
Johnson’s case was a classic one. He took the money and never repaid his victims. So, they reached out to the authorities. As a result, he was caught and prosecuted. The man pleaded guilty to mail fraud. He is now facing up to 20 years in prison.
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