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Boat Captain Falls in Love With a Ghost

A Cape Cod man finds romance with a woman online, but her offer of "investment opportunities" is actually an elaborate crypto scam

illustration of a boat falling into a whirlpool in the ocean surrounded by cryptocurrency coins


infographic quote that says "I was mystified that this beautiful woman would want anything to do with me. It was like a fantasy. It was a $160,000 fantasy."


Keith is retired from his cybersecurity career and spends his time as a boat captain taking people on scenic cruises of Cape Cod Bay. He isn’t really looking for love when he receives an online friend request from a divorcee named Anna, who is based in Hong Kong. A long-distance romance develops, and they make plans for Anna to accompany Keith to his daughter’s wedding. When Anna tells Keith about an investment opportunity in foreign currencies, he is intrigued. But Keith will soon learn that Anna might not be the person he thinks she is and that similar cryptocurrency scams are skyrocketing in New England.  


[00:00:01] Bob: This week on The Perfect Scam.

[00:00:03] Keith Gattozzi: She's still on Facebook.

[00:00:05] Bob: Uh, could I find her? 

[00:00:06] Keith Gattozzi: Yeah. 

[00:00:07] Bob: Let's see what happens here. 

[00:00:09] Keith Gattozzi: That's her! 

[00:15:34] Bob: Hmm. Wow. And so here she is, still on Facebook. I mean, did you report her to Facebook?

[00:00:14] Keith Gattozzi: Yes, I reported her to Facebook, and she said, "I can't believe you reported me." So yeah, that's her. So friend her. You too can lose money and fall in love with a ghost. 


[00:00:30] Bob: Welcome back to The Perfect Scam. I’m your host, Bob Sullivan. Today's story takes us up to New England to Cape Cod, to the postcard ready life of Keith Gattozzi, who spends much of his time as a boat captain on Cape Cod Bay when he's not training other sailors of boating safety. But one day a storm blows into this life of smooth sailing, a storm that really demonstrates something we talk about often at The Perfect Scam. Anyone can be a victim, even a ship captain and a former VP of Cybersecurity.

[00:01:08] Bob: So have you lived in Cape Cod your whole life?

[00:01:09] Keith Gattozzi: Yeah, I lived in Milford, Mass, before that. I, I live in Milford in the winter and Cape Cod in the summer. I, I work for a, a Freedom Boat Club, I'm a captain, so I run their training service for them.

[00:01:22] Bob: That is a pretty nice life, I must say.

[00:01:24] Keith Gattozzi: It's awesome. I, I worked for Fidelity Investments, and you're going to laugh, but I was the VP of Cybersecurity for 22 years, and I retired in 2019.

[00:01:35] Bob: I mean you were there at the beginning of time sort of, right?

[00:01:38] Keith Gattozzi: Yeah, I was there in 1997.

[00:01:40] Bob: Um, wow.

[00:01:40] Keith Gattozzi: The hackers were crazy, and they still were when I left.

[00:01:43] Bob: Yeah, well of course, yeah, there's only more of them as we know.

[00:01:46] Keith Gattozzi: Steal all our money.

[00:01:47] Bob: A few years ago, Keith left behind his life chasing after those crazy hackers so he could spend his time chasing after fair winds.

[00:01:56] Bob: For those uninitiated about New England, what is so special about Cape Cod?

[00:02:00] Keith Gattozzi: The ocean. The, it's just a beautiful place to be. I own a charter boat, so I take people out on scenic cruises and Cape Cod Bay is just unbelievably beautiful. The beaches, the National Seashore, it's just the Cape Cod life. You, it's beautiful here.

[00:02:16] Bob: I can see why someone in your position would retire and become a boat captain.

[00:02:21] Keith Gattozzi: Yes, it's, I worked for Boston Harbor Cruises for a while; I drove their big ferries, and then I wanted to get that on my resume, and then I decided to start my own charter business. And I, I work for Freedom Boat Club, so any time a person, a new customer can reserve a boat, they need to go out with a qualified captain and show that they're proficient in rules of the road and boat handling and anchoring, and, and stuff like that.

[00:02:45] Bob: For some people this might be the first time they've ever been out on Cape Cod, right, and, and they must be so excited to get a boat from you.

[00:02:53] Keith Gattozzi: Yes, they're unbelievably excited, and it's the first time they ever, they've ever been on a boat too. So it's, it's, it's like a three-hour training course for dock--, docking is the biggest challenge. People don't know how to dock. So that takes up most of the time. Anchoring's easy. Wake crossing, man overboard drills, stuff like that, and then rules of the road with buoys. That's the easy part. Docking is the challenge.

[00:03:17] Bob: Uh, cruising at 30,000 feet is easy, right, taking off and landing is the hard part.

[00:03:22] Keith Gattozzi: Exactly, exactly.

[00:03:25] Bob: As we spoke about his twin careers as a cybersecurity evangelist and then a safety evangelist, it struck me these two things aren't that different.

[00:03:36] Bob: I wonder if you've made this connection in your head, but I'm making it, that cybersecurity and safety training in boats, there's kind of some overlap there.

[00:03:45] Keith Gattozzi: It's cert--, there's a lot of overlap, yes.

[00:03:46] Bob: Such as...

[00:03:48] Keith Gattozzi: Well, as far as safety, all's you need in Massachusetts to drive a boat is a key. So they give you a key and they say, okay, go drive the boat. So you, you have no clue about rules of the road. You have no clue about safety, and it's the same thing with cybersecurity. If you already, you know, going into these websites that you have no idea what you're doing, it's the same safety issue. People don't understand what, what's lurking out there until they find out they've gone to a website that put malware, and now they're all over their bank accounts and so it is the same thing. Safety is the issue.

[00:04:25] Bob: So I'm going to just make the point here that you have spent most of your professional life in two very different careers thinking about safety.

[00:04:33] Keith Gattozzi: Yes, I sure have.

[00:04:35] Bob: So that would seem to make you very qualified to be a safe person online.

[00:04:40] Keith Gattozzi: You would think.

[00:04:42] Bob: So yes, Keith has spent the majority of his professional life advocating caution and safety and learning the tactics of computer criminals. But all that didn't prepare him for the day he meets a woman online who starts showering him with attention. She says her name is Anna.

[00:05:03] Keith Gattozzi: Well, I was on Facebook and this beautiful, which I didn't understand why she would want to even talk to me, Chinese, girl, 38 years old, I'm 67, started saying, "Hey, how are you? How are you?" And I said, "I'm great. How are you?" "Oh, you're the only guy that didn't ask me for pictures."

[00:05:22] Bob: While life is great sailing in and around Cape Cod, Keith is in a bit of a spot personally. The divorced dad is helping plan his daughter's wedding and he doesn't have a date for the event yet.

[00:05:35] Keith Gattozzi: So we started talking and then eventually after about a month and a half, we talked about how she got divorced, I got divorced, she has a kid that's in Singapore but she's in, she's in Hong Kong and she's been emotionally drained by the, by it, so the connection here was divorce. And you know, I would say you know, "I'm divorced, too. I have two children." And then I said, "My daughter's getting married." "Oh, I'll come to the wedding." And I, I mean I was mesmerized by all this stuff. We talked for probably six months over and over again about how she's coming to the wedding, she's going to get a visa.

[00:06:10] Bob: Keith loves the idea of taking his beautiful new girlfriend to the wedding, and it seems Anna seems to love the idea of connecting with this divorced dad, and just after a few months, she says she wants to take the relationship a step further.

[00:06:25] Keith Gattozzi: She had sent me a picture of where she is in Hong Kong in this beautiful high rise, overlooking the oh, the, I don't know, the bay or the ocean. You know, "We're going to get, I'm going to come and visit you, we're going to buy a house on the water." She says, "I want to buy a big house with you from Cape--, at Cape Cod," right. She actually started looking at real estate down Cape Cod and sending me pictures. "Oh, look at this house. Look at that house. We can afford this if you put this money, money in." I said, "You can live with me in my little house at the Cape." "I'm not living in a little house," and that's when it started.

[00:06:59] Bob: Keith is a bit wary of the very expensive houses she's shopping for on Cape Cod, but Anna has a plan for how they can afford a big, extravagant new home.

[00:07:10] Keith Gattozzi: She said, "Well, um, do you want to make some money?" I'm like, "Yeah I'm always into money." And she said, "Well let me show you how I make money." She said, "Look, my uncle's a specialist in finances in China. He's got this, this whole company that just does crypto, and look at this." And she showed me the market and she said, "Okay, look, look how much I made today. I made $150,000. Look at me tomorrow, I made another 150. So you know if you invest 5 grand, we'll see what you do." I'm like, "Uh, that's not a bad bet."

[00:07:43] Bob: Not a bad bet. $5000 to see what his girlfriend's uncle knows about finance.

[00:07:49] Keith Gattozzi: I went and wired 5 grand to the Bank of New York, and then they give you a certain transfer code; transfers it into, and then from there...

[00:08:00] Bob: From there he transfers it to another site where Anna says he's investing in foreign currencies. And that's where the magic happens.

[00:08:10] Keith Gattozzi: When I'd go in there, it would be like in the red. And then she says, "Okay, put 150 batches in and sell, my uncle just said sell now or buy." So I'd buy. Next thing you know the market would go up. I'm like, wow. And then she said, "Okay, get out." I would get out and the market would die. So I'm like, wow, this guy's a, a magician. So that's how, that's how it all worked.

[00:08:35] Bob: So over the next several weeks Keith watches his fortunes rise quickly as Anna's uncle keeps making these seemingly well-timed investment calls. Eventually Keith invests $150,000 following Anna's instructions. And his account shows that money has grown. A lot.

[00:08:56] Keith Gattozzi: And then I made a lot more money, then she says, "Well, you know, give me some more." And then finally I made, like I said, $800,000, and then I said this is too easy.

[00:09:06] Bob: Too easy. But Anna wants him to invest more money. When he hesitates, Anna jumps on a video What's App call with him.

[00:09:15] Keith Gattozzi: And then she'd video me. Oh she would video me when I wouldn't respond to her. "Hey, hurry up and get in the market. My uncle's on the phone. He said we need to get into the market right away." And I would say to her, "You don't look like..." "Yes, I do. It's just the video quality." And then what, I said, "You don't look like your video." "What are you saying? I'm ugly?" I said, "No, you're not ugly, but that's not you." "Yes, it is, yes, it is. I'm offended."

[00:09:38] Bob: The video calls leave him with an odd feeling, but Keith is happy with the results he sees on the website Anna has him using. And he's still hoping Anna will visit soon. So he tries to be romantic with her.

[00:09:53] Keith Gattozzi: She sent me her address. So I sent flowers. She got all freaked out because somebody was calling her. "Don't you know about the CCP? They're going to come and get me. Don't you ever send me anything else again," and over and over. So also, I sent her a Cape Cod shirt. That never got there. It got sent back.

[00:10:10] Bob: At that point Keith decides it's time to withdraw his gains from the account.

[00:10:15] Keith Gattozzi: So I'm like, "Okay. I want my money." "Well you can't get your money unless you pay 167,000 in taxes." I'm like, "To who?" "Oh, to Hong Kong." "I'm not paying Hong Kong" "Well then you're not getting your money."

[00:10:28] Bob: Keith doesn't have access to $167,000 in cash, but he wants to grab the proceeds from his investments, so he has to come up with another plan to get the tax money. He does have that much in equity in his home, so he takes out a home equity loan. But at this point something really important happens. He tells a friend about Anna, about the foreign currency investments, about the loan, and to that friend, this entire story sounds very familiar, and not in a good way.

[00:11:03] Keith Gattozzi: He's a good friend of mine, and I told him, and he says, "This doesn't sound right." I'm like, "What do you mean?" He says, "It just doesn't smell right."

[00:11:11] Bob: The friend sends Keith a news story about cryptocurrency scams.

[00:11:16] Keith Gattozzi: I looked and again, it followed every single scenario that I was going through. The person has a, an uncle or, or a relative that's a finance expert. The person's in love with you. The person's going to come and visit you or you're going to visit them. Over and over and over, I'm like, oh my God.

[00:11:35] Bob: The story could have been written about his life, about his Anna. The scam victim in the story went through exactly what Keith is going through.

[00:11:44] Keith Gattozzi: So I stopped, I stopped the home equity loan and from there on, I asked her, I said, uh, "How do, just give me my principal back. You can keep the rest." "No, you have to pay the taxes." I said, "I'm not paying you the taxes." "Well then, sorry."

[00:11:58] Bob: At this point Keith realizes he's in trouble. His story is too much like the news story his friend had sent and dozens of other stories he's now found about crypto scams.

[00:12:10] Keith Gattozzi: Girl falls in love and after that, they spend months uh trying to win you over. Then they start with the uh money. Send me a little bit. Send me a little bit more. Send me a little bit more. Look at how much you're making. Look at this. And then what she tried to do is get my Fidelity account too. "Oh, if you move all this over, look at how much money you're going to make. One transaction you'll have a million dollars," and that's when I said, "No, I'm not touching my retirement fund." And she would get mad at me. So once I read all this, that's when I started to ask her questions that made her angry.

[00:12:43] Bob: But Anna is still working on Keith. She goes on Facebook and connects with one of Keith's friends. Starts flirting with him and tempting him to invest with her. And when Keith directly confronts Anna, accuses her of involving him in a crypto scam, she protests, but he's not invested in crypto.

[00:13:02] Keith Gattozzi: And the only thing she could say about that is, "I'm not having you invest in crypto. I'm having you invest in foreign exchange. It's not the same." Which is, and then that was the end of it.

[00:13:13] Bob: How did it feel when you finally realized what was going on.

[00:13:16] Keith Gattozzi: I felt like an idiot since I was in cybersecurity all my life. And I'm not stupid, and I don't know, I'm like looking for love in all the wrong places, but I felt like an idiot. I was embarrassed. I didn't tell anybody. I told one of my friends, I didn't tell anybody else. I was embarrassed.

[00:13:33] Bob: Keith does report the crime to the FBI, to the crypto exchange he had worked with, and to other law enforcement agencies, but none of them are able to help him recover the $160,000 he thought he'd invested with Anna. It's infuriating, but he can still see the money on the investing website that she sent him to. It's all just an elaborate fake.

[00:13:58] Bob: And apparently you can still see your balance on this exchange I heard, right?

[00:14:01] Keith Gattozzi: yes, I can.

[00:14:02] Bob: Wow, so right now it says $850,000.

[00:14:06] Keith Gattozzi: Yes, it does.

[00:14:08] Bob: And so is Anna an elaborate fake. She's not a person, she's probably many people.

[00:14:17] Keith Gattozzi: What I found out is it's actually a company. So the person that you're talking to online is not the girl that you think you're talking to because a lot of times they would say something to me that didn't make any sense. "I've been talking to you over; you know a year and a half." So that must have been somebody else. So it's, it's like a conglomerate of people that talk to everybody, and then when you need to speak to that specific person who could be a girl or a guy, then they come back to where, you know, I've been talking to you for five months, look at the money we made. So it's a, it's, it's a bunch of, it's, it's like a company, and that's what they do for a living is they scam people.

[00:14:54] Bob: So Anna isn't a woman. Anna is a well-run criminal enterprise.

[00:15:01] Keith Gattozzi: They have a picture for everything. Like "Oh, I'm sorry you got divorced." Sad picture. "Oh, I'm going to my uncle's, he lives on the ocean. I'm going to ride his horse." Girl on horse. I mean no matter what you said to her; she would come up with a picture. They will stay up all night with you. They will be online and ready for you anytime and, and they will have scenarios and pictures for everything. And they don't, they don't start like asking for money right away. They try to start a love affair. And then from there, it goes into the money, and then they get angry if you don't send any money.

[00:15:41] Bob: And the criminals have a way of surfacing and resurfacing over and over. Even though Keith has reported Anna to the social media platform where he found her, I was able to see her profile when I talked to Keith.

[00:15:54] Keith Gattozzi: But she's still on Facebook. I can't get to her, but she's still there.

[00:15:59] Bob: Uh, could I find her?

[00:16:01] Keith Gattozzi: Yeah.

[00:16:02] Bob: Let's see what happens here.

[00:16:03] Keith Gattozzi: That's her!

[00:16:04] Bob: Hmm. Wow. And so here she is, still on Facebook. I mean did you have; did you report her to Facebook?

[00:16:10] Keith Gattozzi: Yes, I reported her to Facebook, and she said, "I can't believe you reported me as a scam." Yeah, so yeah, that's her. So friend her. You too can lose money and fall in love with a ghost.

[00:16:24] Bob: Keith fell in love with a ghost. And in the end, $160,000 was stolen from him. Now if it seems like we're bringing you more and more stories of scam involving cryptocurrency, you're not imagining things. Crimes involving crypto are exploding. Here's FBI Special Agent Matthew Giacobbi.

[00:16:46] Matthew Giacobbi: I know that we've been talking about there is a, a big nationwide increase in crypto scams. Can you quantify that for me in some way?

[00:16:53] Matthew Giacobbi: Sure, so on, on a national level from 2021 to 2022, we saw an increase in the, the scam from cryptocurrency go from approximately 1.45 billion to roughly 3.3 billion, so roughly a 127% increase.

[00:17:12] Bob: Wow, I mean that's a massive national increase.

[00:17:14] Matthew Giacobbi: Yeah, I mean that, you know, certainly you know a cause for concern, a cause for bringing some attention to this and then drilling down from there in Massachusetts and New England area of responsibility in particular, so Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, we saw it go from approximately 15 million to 60 million.

[00:17:34] Bob: So I speak every week with crime victims like this, and you know we know anecdotally that we're getting more and more of these reports of crypto-related scams, but this idea about quadrupling, I mean that's a, that's an increase on a scale I, I've never remembered hearing before. That's enormous.

[00:17:52] Matthew Giacobbi: Yeah, exactly. I mean it's, it's certainly quite frankly too big for us to essentially investigate our way out of it, which is why it's important for us to get on these podcasts in your case, to talk to, you know, the audience that, that you reach to try to really educate people and hopefully prevent people from becoming victimized on the front end.

[00:18:13] Bob: Why are crypto crimes skyrocketing now?

[00:18:17] Matthew Giacobbi: So, you know, it's, it's tough to really put your finger on one specific piece of, of, for the reason that, that that has spiked so dramatically. I think there's lots of different factors at play, but I think part of it is this fascin--, fascination with cryptocurrency, and I think in addition to the, the fascination is a little bit of the unknown. So I think people have heard stories about folks investing in cryptocurrency, and potentially making some money, but I don't know that people are really drilled into how that happened or what is behind that story, so I think there's a, there's certainly a, a spark when people hear crypto of, of a potential to make money or kind of get rich quick in some instances. And I just don't think that potentially people know exactly what's behind the, the folks that have had success in that area.

[00:19:06] Bob: Criminals also have tools at their disposal now which make their stories seem so much more believable. Remember, Keith logged onto a trading website, what he thought was a trading website every day and watched his investments rise in value. The site was fake, but Keith didn't know that.

[00:19:25] Matthew Giacobbi: Yes, the criminals are certainly becoming more sophisticated in the way, the way they're able to make these sites look legitimate and I think you really need to, again, really need to step back, pause, you know, and, and really slow down your decision, in this case with crypto, to invest in crypto with, with the circumstances of the cards you've been dealt, with the, with the person who's asking you to invest, and really drill down and see, and be comfortable, is this legitimate? And again, to me, I think yes, certainly there's people that invest on their own, and I'm not necessarily discouraging people from doing that, but if you have somebody that you do business with, like whether it be a company or an individual, you know, always a good idea to try to talk to the people that you're familiar with, that you have relationships with before you start moving your money around or, or making large investments in a, in potentially an area where you're, you don't, you're, you're not fully an expert in.

[00:20:21] Bob: Why have criminals moved so quickly to crypto?

[00:20:25] Matthew Giacobbi: So I think the piece that is attractive to the criminal element when it comes to cryptocurrency is the anonymity side of it. So certainly crypto is traded on a publicly available blockchain and there is ave--, avenues to see how money is transferred in that regard, but I think when it comes to the criminal element wanting to obtain their illicit proceeds in crypto, the primary reason that I've seen as to why they're interested in, in the crypto is really the ability to hide behind the anonymization of those crypto wallets and who is actually behind those wallets obtaining the illicit funds.

[00:21:05] Bob: So, and also, I suppose it makes it easier to move money internationally and, and to do it quickly, right?

[00:21:12] Matthew Giacobbi: Yes, there's a speed element there, absolutely, with crypto as well as yes, to your point, an internet connection, a computer, and basically a, a seat anywhere in the world to perpetrate these types of scams.

[00:21:25] Bob: So, this again I'm sure will sound like a very basic question, but you know, I've heard about the blockchain, I've heard that all the transactions are basically in public. And so why is it hard to recover money that's been stolen from someone?

[00:21:38] Matthew Giacobbi: So the, the difficulty there is, is while the blockchain is public and there, we are able to, you know, trace transactions and, and see some of that transparency as crypto is traded, there's also, you know, an an--, anonymized effect of that work becomes harder to trace the computers that are being accessed to move that money as well as the owners of the wallets that are behind where we see the money getting transferred to. And then, on top of that, much like money laundering is a certain aspect when it comes to, you know, regular currency in the crypto world, there's also opportunities for folks to launder their cryptocurrency, so put it through tumblers and things along those lines that makes it very difficult to figure out where those wallets have passed through and who actually owns them. So it's, it, it's doubly kind of anonymized in a way for us to get to the, the true individuals behind the wallets.

[00:22:41] Bob: And they tend to move the money from one to the other to the other to the other making it harder and harder to, to catch them, right?

[00:22:47] Matthew Giacobbi: Exactly. Each time they make those movements it's, it's, it becomes you know tougher to trace and then, like I said, with the tumbling services and, and services that really try to obfuscate, even those movements that have happened, once, twice, three, four times, it adds to the layer of complexity.

[00:23:04] Bob: Well what is a tumbling service?

[00:23:05] Matthew Giacobbi: Tumbling service is basically a service that would allow you to take your crypto wallet, and then they basically work that cryptocurrency through various other wallets and in order to obfuscate you know where it started, and where it ends up.

[00:23:22] Bob: I did interview someone last week who said, you know, it's not impossible to recover money. It certainly is a race against time, but, but the sooner that you report being a victim, the better the chances are. So there is a, a bit of a carrot of enticement there to get people to report. Do, do you agree?

[00:23:38] Matthew Giacobbi: I agree 100% and I think, you know, that's why it's important for us to get the word out on, on these types of, with these types of opportunities, and yes, uh, it, it's definitely a race against the clock. The more technology advances, the quicker that stopwatch becomes for us, so certainly we realize there's a, a level of potential embarrassment, but the potential of not wanting to admit this person isn't really going to turn into some sort of romantic person in your life, or whatever the case may be, trying to do what we can to give people a, some comfort in reporting it quickly, because like I said, that really is the best chance we have to help them is, is that, that quick turnaround, and letting us know they, they are potentially caught up in, in a scheme.

[00:24:25] Bob: One typical crypto scam follows pretty much what happened to Keith. A criminal finds a victim on a dating site or a social media site, gets them into a romantic relationship, then leads them into an investment that's fake and steals the money. But some crypto scams are much less elaborate. They start with just a random text.

[00:23:46] Matthew Giacobbi: It might be something as simple as, "Hey, you know, Bob, I haven't heard from you in a while. You know this is John, you know. How are you doing?" And you might respond just you know, "I don't know who you are," and "Oh, I've got the wrong number," and then all the sudden that translates into, you know, potentially a conversation about investing in cryptocurrency, and there'll be some hesitation, and then some back and forth, some social engineering, and then eventually you know folks getting their interest peaked just enough to start with, you know, potentially some very, very low numbers to see if they can trust the individual they're dealing with. They might make some profits off of those initial investments that aren't, aren't true profits, but it's, it's to show them that they have trust in the person they're dealing with, and then eventually kind of work that to get you to invest more and more and more, and then eventually kind of pull the carpet out from under you, and take the money that you think you've invested in a legitimate cryptocurrency, when in fact, it's either a, a, an app that that has been, you know, manufactured by the, the bad individuals, bad actors, or it could be a website that's been spoofed or, you know, something that looks legitimate but when you really take a closer look at, it's not legitimate.

[00:25:57] Bob: I, I've gotten those text messages, you know, and it's, it's as simple as, like you said, "Hey, how are you, or how are you?" And then you respond, "Who are you?" And, and within minutes they're asking you to invest in cryptocurrency. Um, and I, I think some people might say, well that's hard to believe that would work, but, but it does work, right?

[00:26:15] Matthew Giacobbi: Yeah, it does.

[00:26:17] Bob: The FBI is hard at work trying to track down crypto scam crime gangs.

[00:26:23] Matthew Giacobbi: Yeah, so certainly we, you know here in Boston, we've had some successes. You know we've had successes with our international partners as well as um, you know success with our local uh, US attorney’s offices that we work with here, and I think, you know, as a whole, you know when I say we can't prosecute our way out of it, I, I want folks to understand that doesn't mean we're not going to prosecute. I just think this threat is so voluminous that in addition to that prosecution piece, the arrests, the search warrants, going after the criminals perpetrating this, I think there's a big education component, outreach component that we try to balance with the prosecution, side and the arrest powers that we have as FBI agents. So it's just trying to balance those two pieces to make as big an impact as we can. And you heard just those sheer numbers, you know even at the federal government level, our resources, you know, get strained and get limited in all the different areas we have to pay attention to outside of just this particular crime. We want to make sure we are balancing it with the education, public service announcements, those types of things. So we try to balance that.

[00:27:30] Bob: So how can people protect themselves?

[00:27:33] Matthew Giacobbi: I think if a, you know, first and foremost, like the, the example we just talked about. If an unknown individual can contact you out of the blue and starts asking for financial information or personal information, that should really throw up some sort of red flag to you immediately, right off the bat and as to whether or not you even want to continue communicating with that person. I think when it comes to investments, particularly with folks that have spent a lifetime saving money working towards retirement, and then ultimately you know reaching your retirement age, certainly you want to protect that, and I think if you're getting advice for your investments on somebody you solely meet online, I think that should also throw up a red flag. I think you; you want to make sure there's an ability to meet that person in, in person, in the flesh, and kind of get an understanding of who their clients are, how they invest, what exactly they're invested in, et cetera. And then when it comes to cryptocurrency especially, I think you know we all have an idea of where our retirement funds are being invested, and hopefully we take some sort of proactive measure to, to make sure we're investing in the right spaces as we prepare for retirement. I think with crypto, in particular, you know we've talked a little bit about the blockchain and touched on some nuances, I think folks that are considering investing in crypto really want to ask themselves, do I know exactly what I'm investing in? Why do I think this is a good investment? Who am I investing with? You know, those types of questions are important, I think, when you, when you make any sort of investment that, that age-old risk vs. reward calculation; is, is the risk I'm about to take with my investment worth the potential reward I think I'm going to get from this crypto. The last piece is to really encourage people to report that potential fraud to the FBI as soon as possible. And, and the best mechanism is through, and the faster folks are willing to report that potential fraud to us, the better chances we have of truly being of assistance to them.

[00:29:38] Bob: Just one final question from me; does this get frustrating? I mean knowing there's this many crimes happening and obviously you can't chase after every single criminal, does that get frustrating?

[00:29:49] Matthew Giacobbi: Challenging, I think, would be the better word. We all join this organization I think with a, with a, you know, goal in mind to help people. And the FBI mission is a mission like no other ­–uphold the Constitution and protect the American people. So I think that is what drives us every day, and when you see numbers like we've talked about here with the cryptocurrency fraud, yes it's certainly challenging, but you know it just, it drives the workforce here to work that much harder to try to help protect the folks that either have been victimized, or potentially could be victimized in the future, and really gives us a purpose as to why we do this job and, and hopefully at the end of the day, make a difference.

[00:30:32] Bob: Keith agreed to talk with The Perfect Scam because he wants to make a difference. Remember, at first, he didn't want to tell anyone about what happened, but since he's gone public, he's heard from other victims.

[00:30:43] Keith Gattozzi: They're in their 60s, and some are, some are married, and they can't admit it. And some are single, and it just, you see this beautiful girl that just likes you for no reason. And uh it's just, I don't know, I got, I get really angry, and I felt bad because if it can get me, it can get anybody, and I'm, I think I'm very intelligent and I'm, I'm not, I thought I wasn't prone to this stuff, but I guess I was.

[00:31:13] Bob: One important part of his story I want to stress, Keith was assured repeatedly he wasn't investing in crypto, but he was investing in foreign currencies. The crypto was merely how he was funding the investment account. I suspect that's because word has gotten out to many potential victims that crypto investment are very risky. So the criminals are adjusting their stories. Something to watch out for. Whatever you're being told, if someone ultimately asks you to move money using cryptocurrency, you should be very, very skeptical. And that's basically what Keith told us.

[00:31:48] Keith Gattozzi: Be aware. Be aware of what's going on out there because there are professional, and that's what this is, there are professional organizations that just do this for a living. They will go after your emotional stability based on where you are in life, what your age is, what your marital status is, and, and just beware, because I wasn't.

[00:32:09] Bob: No one is immune to this kind of thing. It all depends on timing and so that's why I'm really glad you're sharing this.

[00:32:15] Keith Gattozzi: Right, and your emotional, your emotional stability at the time of the scam.

[00:32:19] Bob: Yeah.

[00:32:20] Keith Gattozzi: That, that's what got me. I mean I'm pretty; I mean I have an MBA, I'm not stupid, I've been around forever, and I never thought I would get caught in something like this, but I did. And once I realized I did, it was too late.

[00:32:34] Bob: Well you mentioned uh, right at the beginning that you know what happened, what the critical thing is they get you at the right moment, the right emotional state. You're um, you, you had a family wedding to go to. Do you think that maybe was part of it?

[00:32:46] Keith Gattozzi: I think so and it got me, and it's like eh, but she did, she put, you know, "I really love you." I'm like, what, "Why do you love me? I'm 67, you're 38." "Oh you're such a nice person." I said, "Yeah, I know I'm a nice person, but you're 38 years old. I'm like your grandfather." "Oh, but you, oh I can't wait to come and see you," over and over and over again, and I was like mystified by this beautiful woman that would want anything to do with me. I'm not an ugly guy. I have a lot of girlfriends, I had this, I had that, but it was like, I don't know, a fantasy? Who knows? It was $160,000 fantasy.

[00:33:21] Bob: What's the lasting message Keith wants people to hear?

[00:33:25] Keith Gattozzi: I want people need to understand that everything, everything online is a scam. If you, and, and that's what I tell the boaters. Don't assume anybody knows anything. So my message is, don't fall for love in the wrong places. Don't think these girls that are 20, 30 years younger than you like you, 'cause they don't. Don't ever, ever send money to anybody, EVER, no matter how mad they get at you, no matter how much money you think you're going to make, do not ever send a penny to anybody. No matter how much they love you, whether they're going to come to a wedding with you, do not send money to anybody. EVER. If they don't like you, move on. If they don't like you for you, move on. If they like you for your money, move on. That, that, that's really my message. Be aware.

[00:34:16] Bob: For Keith, this storm has now passed and he's back hunting fair winds outside Cape Cod. He's lucky. $160,000 wasn't everything he had saved for retirement, so the loss hurts, but fortunately he hasn't had to change his lifestyle.

[00:34:32] Bob: Was there a moment where you were back on the boat where you felt like you were going to be okay, you realized it wasn't the end of the world?

[00:34:38] Keith Gattozzi: Yeah, I just, I decided that, you know, in, in the big, in the scheme of things, I'm okay without touching my 401K and hopefully I'll make it back in the market. So I decided, oh well, lesson learned. Expensive lesson learned. But don't do it again.

[00:34:56] Bob: Expensive lesson learned. That's a, that's a really positive way to look at it.

[00:35:00] Keith Gattozzi: yes.


[00:35:06] Bob: If you have been targeted by a scam or fraud, you are not alone. Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Their trained fraud specialists can provide you with free support and guidance on what to do next. Our email address at The Perfect Scam is:, and we want to hear from you. If you've been the victim of a scam or you know someone who has, and you'd like us to tell their story, write to us or just send us some feedback. That address again is: Thank you to our team of scambusters; Associate Producer, Annalea Embree; Researcher, Sarah Binney; Executive Producer, Julie Getz; and our Audio Engineer and Sound Designer, Julio Gonzalez. Be sure to find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. For AARP's The Perfect Scam, I'm Bob Sullivan.



The Perfect ScamSM is a project of the AARP Fraud Watch Network, which equips consumers like you with the knowledge to give you power over scams.

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