Woman sent scammer US$93,000 after he pretended to be her old classmate, US cops say

Scammers and cybercriminals who get personal information, such as credit card numbers and social security numbers, on the dark web then often sell them or keep them for personal use, the release says. — Pay online photo created by jannoon028 - www.freepik.com

A woman sent a scammer she met online US$93,000 (RM438,588) after he claimed he was her former classmate, according to a South Carolina sheriff’s office.

The scammer met the woman online in December 2020, telling her that he knew her because they went to high school together, according to a news release from the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office. He also told her that he lived in Russia.

The two communicated online and texted each other, the release says. He often changed his name and the location where he claimed to be living.

In March 2021, he asked the woman for money because he said his son had been hospitalised after a car crash, according to the sheriff’s office.

The woman sent him a total of US$93,000 in bank transfers and gift cards, the release says.

The woman filed a report about the scam with the sheriff’s office in September, Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Master Deputy Jimmy Watt told McClatchy News. The scammer has not been identified and charges haven’t been filed, he said.

“It’s extremely hard to pinpoint exactly where this person was when they were initiating all this contact,” he said. “Unless we can prove through evidence that the scams originate inside of our county, prosecution is pretty much extremely difficult.“

Many people’s personal identifying information can be found by scammers on the “dark web,” Bailey Parker, director of communications for the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs, told the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office.

The dark web is a part of the Internet that requires a special “anonymising browser” called a Tor to be accessed. It cannot be viewed via normal search engines.

Most information winds up on the dark web through a type of security breach, Parker said.

“...(B)usinesses we are using on a daily basis, whether it is the gas stations or grocery store or even the health care organisation you go to, they are victims of security breaches,” she said. “Hackers, and criminals in general, are targeting these large businesses because they know that (these) businesses have tons of your personal identifying information.”

Scammers and cybercriminals who get personal information, such as credit card numbers and social security numbers, on the dark web then often sell them or keep them for personal use, the release says.

In the release, Watt warned residents not to give money to anyone they meet online.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office is located in Walhalla, about 45 miles southwest of Greenville.

Watt also said a telltale sign of a scammer is someone who requests money via a type of prepaid card, such as a gift card.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received an average of 552,000 complaints about a variety of Internet scams across the globe each year between 2017 and 2021, according to the agency’s latest annual report published in 2021. That year, the agency received 847,376 complaints and reported total losses to scammers of about US$6.9bil (RM32bil).

“We have seen variations on this kind of scam, from a sweetheart scam or someone who needs money for a family emergency,” Watt said. “Scammers can be very adept at building online relationships with people.” – The Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service

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