Seven individuals were recently given prison sentences for their involvement in an online fraud ring. The group used job opportunities, dating and shopping scams to deceive victims out of money. The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) reported that the scams included phony work-from-home opportunities, “mystery shopper” websites and counterfeit checks.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said that the seven men and women were part of a “large scale international fraud ring”. People of all walks of life were targeted in the scams. One of the ploys was a fictitious dating site which preyed on lonely people who were trying to find romance. Other victims included work-from-home job opportunities where people thought they had obtained legitimate work as a personal assistant. The victims were told to wait for instructions which would be accompanied by a check. The counterfeit checks bounced after the money was laundering in the United States and transferred to Nigeria.
The victims were left liable for the bounced checks and charged fines and bank fees that in some instances totaled hundreds of dollars. Anthony Shane Jeffers of Maryville, Tennessee and Funso Hassan of Ibadan, Nigeria were both given 10 year prison sentences after pleading guilty to one count of racketeering and one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft and theft of government property. The other five members were convicted of conspiracy to commit identity theft and theft of government property. Shawn Ann White of Manteca, California; Michele Gayle Fee of Stockton, California; Gary Melvin Barnard of Palestine, Texas; Tanya Lynn Thomas of Turlock, California; and Ann Louise Franzen of Kiln, Mississippi were all sentenced to five years in prison.
Even though email providers try to filter many of these phishing email scams, many can still get through. Consumers are urged to use caution and when an opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is.