March 3, 2011 — -- An Illinois man who thought he was in a long-distance relationship with a woman for two-and-a-half years actually was in the process of being ripped off for $200,000 in an online scam, police said.
The 48-year old man thought he was assisting a girlfriend he met on a social network website when he wired money to bank accounts in Portland, Ore., Nigeria, Malaysia and England, said police in Naperville, Ill.
"He believed she had several things going where she needed money," said Naperville Police Sgt. Gregg Bell, adding that it was against police policy to release the victim's name.
The victim transferred $15,000 to $20,000 early in the relationship with the girlfriend that he never met in person because she said she was ill in Nigeria and needed to pay for a doctor, Bell said. Other transactions involved smaller amounts, such as $5,000 and $6,800.
The victim contacted the police on Feb. 23, when the girlfriend told him she was kidnapped in London, Bell said, adding that what the victim believed was a picture of the girlfriend actually was a sample license photo from Florida.
"It had the earmarkings of another scam where people take advantage of people being somewhat naive in the ways of the world," Bell said.
Although Bell has seem similar scams, he had not seen a case involving as much as $200,000 in his 23 years with the Naperville police.
John Everett of the National White Collar Crime Center said such a crime is known as "advance fee fraud," in which a scammer solicits money from a victim, claiming to provide an incentive such as more money.
"In order to get the money, the person will give a handsome reward or other promise," Everett said. "In this case, it was love."
There were 23,089 advance fee fraud complaints filed last year, according to the Internet Complaint Crime Center (IC3), a collaboration between the FBI and National White Collar Crime Center. That was 7.6 percent of the total 303,809 complaints filed with IC3.