Consumer Alert: Sweetheart Swindle - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Consumer Alert: Sweetheart Swindle

Source: Ivanhoe Newswire Source: Ivanhoe Newswire

They think they are communicating with honest men who are interested in starting new relationships. Instead, thousands of women are being lured into so-called "sweetheart scams." In this case, a man posing as a member of the military conned more than 100 women online. As learned, financial losses are difficult for the victims, but the psychological losses are overwhelming.

"I was starting a new beginning and stuff and my daughter was like, mom, why don't you get on MySpace," Angela Knuckles, a fraud victim, said.

So, after a difficult divorce, Knuckles decided to fill out a profile and met a man who said he was in the military.

"He was very interested in like knowing about my daughter, about my life," said Knuckles.

He sent her pictures, talked about his job, his family and asked if they could start communicating through email instead of the dating site. She happily accepted.

"He called all the time, he sent cards, flowers, chocolates It was just like a dream come true," Knuckles continued.

Then, he asked if she could send him money because his reimbursements from the government were delayed and that he was going to get put out of the hotel he was staying at.

In all, she sent $12,000 before realizing it was all a scam.

Postal inspectors say Illumsa Sunmola, who lived in Nigeria, stole $1.7 million from 100 victims by stealing social media pictures and posing as someone else.

Because he was in Africa, these cases can be a challenge to investigate but then they got a break.

U.S. authorities, along with Scotland Yard, learned Sunmola traveled to London.

"They actually arrested him as he was boarding a plane back to Johannesburg," Adam Latham, a U.S. Postal Inspector said.

The lesson in this case is clear. Communicating with people online has risks, especially dating websites.

You need to stay on the website's communication. In all of our conversations with victims, they were immediately moved from proprietary communication from the website off to Yahoo chat or to phone calls.

Sunmola faced mail and wire fraud along with conspiracy charges and was sentenced to 27 years in prison. He was also ordered to pay $1.7 million back to victims.

Copyright 2017 Litton’s Consumer Alert via WBRC. All rights reserved.

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