Oregon officials are warning people to be extra-cautious when talking to strangers online after discovering that an 80-year-old widower was swindled out of $200,000 by an unknown con artist, reports NBC News.
According to the article, the victim had begun chatting with someone pretending to be a Florida woman on an online dating service. They fostered a long-distance relationship with the elderly man and claimed to need the money to transport a 500-ton marble lion sculpture from China. The man paid the alleged scammer in installments over five months for a total of $200,000.
The suspect allegedly “catfished” the man by falsifying financial documents and leading him to believe they had a deep and meaningful relationship.
“Unfortunately, victims often wire funds overseas or to third-party transfer agents, making it difficult to track the money and identify the con artist,” stated Division of Financial Regulation spokesman Andrew Stolfi, in a press release on Tuesday.
In this case, the 80-year-old man had sent money to multiple overseas banks, believing he was funding the cost of shipping the sculpture to America.
Scammers of this nature often masquerade as singles on dating services and social media. They often target older adults, who are not always as savvy with technology and less likely to recognize deception. The con artist then takes the time to build a relationship and earn their target’s trust before asking for money, generally in small increments spread out over a period.
According to the Statesman Journal, the suspect had stolen the Florida woman’s identity and told their victim that they needed investors to help them ship the massive sculpture before they sold it to an art gallery. They then ensured the man they would split the profits.
Oregon man loses $200K in catfish online-dating scam over artwork investment https://t.co/kCuoM4hvHW
— Statesman Journal (@Salem_Statesman) February 11, 2020
The article also included a photograph of the Oriental Lion sculpture in question. The statue is actually made out of wood and not of marble. It goes on to state that it was created in Myanmar “before being moved more than 3,000 miles to its current location at the Fortune Plaza Times Square in Wuhan.”
There are no reported plans to relocate the statue at this time.
NBC News reports that this particular case was investigated by the Department of Consumer and Business Services.
“This is why it is so important to not send money if you haven’t met in person, especially if they want you to send money to unknown people or overseas,” said department head Brad Hilliard.