Their stories will break your heart, if only because theirs were so open. One is a 59-year-old man confined to his home after an accident. Alone and lonely, he met on an online “date” who claimed to be 29-year-old woman in Ghana. He sent an expensive engagement ring, along with a monthly stipend to help with living expenses.
Although the Morris County man never met his would-be paramour, a federal postal inspector told CLIFFVIEW PILOT , “their online romance intensified and she began referring to herself as his wife.”
Before long, he began receiving calls from her “brother,” who said she couldn’t get to a phone, the inspector said.
The brother asked the victim to accept packages and reship them to her in Ghana. Inside were several hundred dollars worth of men’s clothes, two laptop computers, and of thousands of dollars worth of stamps.com postage — bought with stolen credit card numbers from Americans across the country.
“Often we see the higher-end items, like computers, laptops, flat panel TV’s, Ipods, etc., going to Russia and the former Eastern Bloc countries and a lot of clothing and cheaper items going to West Africa, including anything that can be sold at a corner store, even used clothes, flip flops, cheap toys,” said Joshua Shander, of the USPIS New Jersey field office, based in Newark. “Yet we also see electronics going to West Africa, as well.”
In what authorities called “a common twist in this type of scheme,” the con artists threatened and tried to deceive the victim. He got several calls from the “brother” telling him he would be liable in court for surrendering the items to law enforcement, who, according to him, had no right to seize it.
And get this: The scammer even emailed a U.S. Postal Inspector directly, pleading for the release of his merchandise and insisting nothing shady was going on.
The investigators quickly determined that the rip-off artists used fraudulent electronic shipping labels and bogus addresses. The Postal Service blocked the parcels from reaching the black market overseas, and a common scheme was snuffed out.
In another “sweetheart scam,” a man in his late 50s was convinced to accept and repackage assorted English soccer jerseys, various designer clothes, and electronics, while collecting about $3,000 of postage purchased from USPS online with a stolen credit card.
The idea was for the Warrren County victim to use the postage to mail the merchandise to Ghana, along with any surplus stamps.
The possibility that you could get taken by someone increases exponentially online, where thieves are constantly trolling for suckers they can reel in with no trouble.
So use common sense: Don’t become one.
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