A man and woman from New York will be sentenced this week for their role in a scam that defrauded a Virginia man out of more than $500,000.
ANNANDALE, Va. — For the victim, a 78-year-old man from Annandale, it started with an effort to find some companionship. He created an account on a social network called iFlirt, then made contact with someone identifying herself as a widowed woman in her 30s who seemed interested.
As the online relationship grew, though, the scam started to emerge. The woman, who claimed to be from New York, said she was arrested while traveling to Germany to retrieve an inheritance of gold bars, and needed money to make bail. The man paid it, only to get another message that she was arrested a second time and needed even more money.
In the end, the Annandale man, who is not identified in court papers, got taken for well over $500,000, the latest victim in a growing trend known as romance fraud.
Romance scams reached a record high in 2021, increasing by nearly 80% from 2020, according to a report from the Federal Trade Commission. In the past five years, victims have lost more than $1.3 billion to such scams, the FTC said, more than any other category of fraud the agency tracks.