February 11, 2020
Salem – Valentine’s Day is almost here, love is in the air, and the Oregon
Division of Financial Regulation warns, don’t get catfished.
Recently, an 80-year-old widower was catfished out of $200,000. The unidentified
fraudster stole a Florida woman’s identity to befriend the Oregonian through
an online dating service and persuaded him to send money for a business opportunity.
Over several months, the con artist convinced the elderly man that they were
in a long-distance romantic relationship, and proposed an opportunity to support
an art gallery in Florida.
The scammer pretended to seek investors to cover $5 million in transportation
costs to ship a 500-ton marble lion sculpture from China. The con artist promised
that investments would be returned plus a percentage of the profits from the
sale of the sculpture.
The widower even received fabricated documents detailing the contract with
the museum and bank statements. Relying on the documents and his romantic relationship,
the victim made a series of payments over five months to various individuals
and overseas bank accounts totaling more than $200,000.
The widower lost his entire investment and investigators have been unable
to locate the scammer.
“Romance scams typically target older individuals, gain their trust, then
ask for money through social media and dating websites,” said Andrew Stolfi,
division administrator. “Unfortunately, victims often wire funds overseas or
to third-party transfer agents, making it difficult to track the money and
identify the con artist.”
The division encourages consumers to do their homework before making any
investment. Protect yourself from getting catfished or falling for an investment
scam by following these tips:
- Do not send money to anyone you have not met in person, and be cautious
about sharing personal or financial information.
- Do not transfer money to unknown people or intermediaries. If you need
to use a third party to send money, use a licensed
money transmitter .
- Keep copies of all communications with scammers and report them to the
division, the online dating site, the local police, the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, and the Federal Trade Commission.
For more information and tips about investing, visit dfr.oregon.gov/financial/investments .
Consumers can also contact the division’s advocates at 888-877-4894 (toll-free)
to ask questions, file complaints, or check the license of a company or advisor.
About DCBS: The Department of Consumer and Business Services
is Oregon's largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For
more information, visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov.
About Oregon DFR: The Division of Financial Regulation is
part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest
business regulatory and consumer protection agency. Visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov and http://dfr.oregon.gov/Pages/index.aspx.