FBI warns of increase in online scams

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Law enforcement agents are warning the public about an increase in online financial scams targeting both lonely hearts as well as corporate-finance officers.

In Southern California alone, such scams cost businesses about $5 million a month, federal officials estimate.

The two types of victims can be tied in to the same plot, officials said, when the scammer tries to get a victim met through a dating site to act inadvertently as a money mule for stolen corporate funds.

The business side of the scam starts with someone sending fake emails to company employees who manage finances, possibly posing as the CEO or another officer, seeking information about employees or requesting a wire transfer of funds. Then they get someone they met through an online dating site to help transfer the funds to an offshore account.

Tim McMurray was targeted by one such scam. The 61-year-old Gardena man promised his mother before she died that he'd meet a good woman. He went looking online and found someone who turned out to be too good to be true.

The person turned out to be a man trying to rope McMurray into an elaborate financial scheme.

Posing as McMurray's female love interest, the man tried to get McMurray to help launder $50,000, but instead he turned to the FBI. The scam was thwarted, an arrest was made and the funds were returned to a local business.

"They were not that creative," McMurray said. "I was thinking you have to be pretty vulnerable for this to work."

Other scams stick to just trying to get money directly from people met through online dating sites.

One Southern California family said their elderly mother met someone through an online dating site and was convinced to wire more than $20,000 out of her account. The money was not recovered and she still does not believe she was a victim.

"To this day she believes that this guy is real," said the woman's son, David Weil.
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