"These are not rich widows who are being preyed on, these are middle-class Americans who don't have this kind of money to spare," he said. There are more than 600 cases a year, and the amount lost by each victim averages in the tens of thousands of dollars, it said. They pretend to be a Western man who then gets into legal or business difficulties in Muslim-majority Malaysia. The 59-year-old widow from Phoenix, Arizona, who declined to be identified, said she had gone heavily into debt to make the payments to "Charles", and even flew to Malaysia in March to meet him.
"It can really transform their lives in a very terrible way." The U. The actual figure of total losses is probably far higher, Scherer said, because many victims are too embarrassed to come forward or do not know who to contact. FAKE ROMANCE Large teams of scammers typically trawl dating or Christian websites and contact middle-aged women, the U. He never showed up, but a European woman claiming to be his lawyer managed to bilk another ,000 out of the woman before she returned to Arizona.
He said the scammers were highly sophisticated, often grooming victims for months and using convincing techniques such as forging letters purportedly from the U. Another victim, a women in her late 50s in the eastern United States, said she sent her life savings of 0,000 over two months to a Malaysia-based "American" man she met on dating site Match.com, three years after her husband died. S.-based dating sites, it features prominent warnings about scammers, specifically telling users to be wary of people who say they are Americans based abroad. Malaysia has pursued a policy of attracting international students for more than a decade, allowing dozens of foreign colleges to set up Malaysian campuses.
"I felt like I was in love with this man and we'd be moving forward with a life together real soon," she told Reuters. STUDENT SCAM The conmen have exploited Malaysia's drive to become a global education hub, securing student visas to attend college, the U. Scherer said it was likely that many of the Nigerians in Malaysia were not genuine students.
About 70% of the victims were female; more than half were women 40 years or older.In a typical con, the perpetrator will spend weeks or even months building up a romantic relationship with a victim through e-mails, texts or phone calls, before eventually asking for money.And many of the scammers aren't even in the United States."In the process of going back and forth, a scammer is going to try to figure out what makes a person tick, what their vulnerable spots are," said Jenny Shearer, an FBI spokeswoman."Because a victim has legitimate feelings, they might be inclined to offer financial support for this person." For Best, it all started when she signed up for a free online dating site called mingle2.