Even if you are able to get out of the bank, we can probably find out who you are and track you down.But with an Internet crime like this, it’s much more difficult.”As for the Texas woman, she came forward “because I don’t want this to happen to anybody else.

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A part of her still wants to believe that Charlie is real and that their relationship was real—that the e-mail exchanges about church and the phone calls when they sang together and prayed together meant as much to him as they did to her.

She even holds out hope that one day Charlie will repay her, as he promised to do so many times. There can’t be a man in this world that could be this horrible to have purposefully done what he’s done to me.” The criminals who carry out romance scams are experts at what they do.

The woman, in her 50s and struggling in her marriage, was happy to find someone to chat with. He was very positive, and I felt like there was a real connection there.”That connection would end up costing the woman $2 million and an untold amount of heartache after the man she fell in love with—whom she never met in person—took her for every cent she had.

Victims—predominantly older widowed or divorced women targeted by criminal groups usually from Nigeria—are, for the most part, computer literate and educated. And con artists know exactly how to exploit that vulnerability because potential victims freely post details about their lives and personalities on dating and social media sites.

You can be anywhere in the world and victimize people,” she said.

“The perpetrators will reach out to a lot of people on various networking sites to find somebody who may be a good target.

Trolling for victims online “is like throwing a fishing line,” said Special Agent Christine Beining, a veteran financial fraud investigator in the FBI’s Houston Division who has seen a substantial increase in the number of romance scam cases.

“The Internet makes this type of crime easy because you can pretend to be anybody you want to be.

We can find out where in the world their computer is being used.

It’s identifying who they actually are that’s the hard part.

Otherwise, there is no doubt that he is a heartless criminal who robbed her and broke her heart—and who is almost certainly continuing to victimize other women in the same way.“I can’t even imagine a man, a person, that could be this bad,” she said. They spend hours honing their skills and sometimes keep journals on their victims to better understand how to manipulate and exploit them.“Behind the veil of romance, it’s a criminal enterprise like any other,” said Special Agent Christine Beining.