Criminals involved in romantic scams look for victims through various dating and communication apps and social networks. Birutė, a 70-year-old woman from Vilnius, has been swindled in one of them: the schemes used by virtual scammers are so impactful that even a huge life experience cannot protect against them.
The woman believed she was in contact with John, an American soldier serving in Syria: the man who had introduced himself like that started chatting with her on a dating app. She signed up for the app for fun, as she had been using a computer for a long time: for reading the news online, communication with her children living abroad and paying taxes. Her experience there was as best as possible. Why not to try another novelty?
No suspicions raised
The acquaintance seemed to promise only the best impressions. The new friend was eager to share the details of his life - he was 56 years old, a veteran of the service, with a retirement coming up soon, and feeling very lonely in a foreign country. He wrote messages in Lithuanian with the help of translation software.
John warmly thanked Birutė for telling him about her daily life, praised her optimism and sincerity, and said that was what he missed in his relationships with women. He claimed that maturity of heart and mind was more valuable than the temporary glamour of youth. The woman who had been married for about 50 years was smiling when reading generous compliments. She didn't tell her spouse about the acquaintance: why bother, especially since everything was happening online.
The emphasized warmth, however, had "disarmed" Birutė to the extent that she forgot her usual caution and made some money transfers without any hesitation, when John had cautiously asked her to transfer money to pay for the customs charges on the gift he was sending her. Provided, of course, that it would not burden her... The woman was ready to give even her family savings away. She made several money transfers totaling €10,000 to a foreign bank account specified by her correspondence friend. After all, it wasn't much, considering a diamond necklace was arriving as a gift. That was what the eloquent fan wrote.
The behaviour of the woman who had made several payment orders abroad appeared unusual to employees of the bank's branch: the staff usually recognises atypical customer behaviour, so they took a closer look at the case. After security experts had intervened into the situation, the amount of €10,000 was successfully saved: a transfer of €3,000 was cancelled and the amount of €7,000 already transferred was recovered from the recipient's bank.
Stress was the only cost the woman described in the story, based on real facts, had to pay. Yet, much greater losses are possible. Until the funds are credited to the recipient's account or the transfer is sent from the bank, international transfers can be cancelled, reminds Eivilė Čipkutė, President of the Association of Lithuanian Banks. It is therefore very important that customers themselves do not hesitate to contact the bank.
"But often, even after realising that they have transferred money to scammers, customers do not dare report it. Moreover, occasionally people do not want to admit that they are being deceived and do not pay any attention to the warnings from the bank staff or police", emphasises Ms. Čipkutė.