AARP Eye Center
Newly diagnosed with cancer, an Illinois man planned to take his wife camping for their 49th wedding anniversary in October. Ugly revelations sent the plan up in smoke. She confessed to sending cash, gift cards and Bitcoin to an online suitor who fed her a string of lies and even sent her a fake United Nations marriage certificate.
“He’s ruined my life,” the retiree, 69, says of the suitor, who describesd himself as an Army officer away on a “secret mission” in Afghanistan.
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.
There’s nothing new about fraudsters posing as military officers, since that gives the crook an aura of stature, strength and patriotism — and an excuse for being thousands of miles away, unable to meet.
What is new — and troubling — is what the FBI warns is a spike in romance scammers persuading victims to allegedly invest or trade in cryptocurrency. Often called “crypto,” these digital forms of money are traded electronically through private wallets and public exchanges and can be difficult to trace.
Through July of this year, there were more than 1,800 cases of romance fraud involving cryptocurrency reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, with losses soaring to $133.4 million.
"This person is going to squeeze every single penny they can out of you, and they’re going to block your number, and you will never hear from them again.”
— Texan confronting his mother about a suspicious online suitor
Reaching out to AARP
Some bad actors request digital currency outright, says Amy Nofziger, who oversees the Fraud Watch Network toll-free helpline, 877-908-3360.