Franklin Co. woman loses thousands of dollars from online scam

Posted at 5:12 PM, Nov 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-24 11:43:47-05

A Franklin County woman is out tens of thousands of dollars after someone conned her online.

It started with Facebook messages from a man using the alias Anthony Lee claiming to be a deployed U.S. Army captain.

Those messages continued for several months and an Estill Springs woman thought they were in a serious relationship. 

"He said he hit an area that was quite frequented by the Taliban and stuff like that and had three to six million dollars in cash," said Estill Springs Police Chief Matt Baker. 

To get the cash through customs, Lee said he needed a $50,000 wire transfer. 

After months of contact on Facebook and the app Hangouts, the victim went through with it, but it didn't stop there.

She ended up transferring money to Lee nine times.

"Altogether $72,500," said Baker.

Baker followed up with the report last week. 

"You could see it in her face. She was very distraught, very upset," said Baker.

In the quiet town of 2,500 people, Baker was shocked. 

"I asked her, 'where did you get this money at, $72,500?'" Baker said. "She stated that it was her life insurance, her deceased husband's life insurance policy."

As the investigation continued, another report came in Wednesday.

"A woman was allegedly contacted by the Social Security Services and we're believing they're doing it through obituaries, when people [are] most vulnerable, usually two to three weeks afterwards," Baker said.

This woman said she was expecting a call from Social Security Services, but didn't realize it was bogus until after she'd already provided her name, social security number and husband's information.

The U.S. Secret Service is involved now, but the first victim's money was transferred to offshore accounts and she likely won't get it back.

"It's sad that people gotta go that low," Baker said. "Those people, they're still in mourning and to lose that kind of money, to even get somebody's personal information, it's just, it's just not right."

Obituaries are easy to look up online and often include a lot of personal information like names, hometowns and occupations scammers can use to target individuals.

Baker encourages you to limit the amount of information you put out in obituaries,

If you did just lose a loved one, be vigilant that you could be a target.

He also recommends doing reverse image searches to confirm the identity of people you're talking to online.