Valentine’s Day Scams: All in the Name of Love

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Courtney Babin
ACFE Communications Coordinator

Let’s be honest, February might as well belong to Hallmark. It’s the season of professed love as cards, flowers and teddy bears with chocolates are stocked in the shelves at your local stores. Subliminal pink and red palettes remind you to make reservations and order long-stem roses as Valentine’s Day looms around the corner. In the spirit of the holiday, let’s all be careful not to get swept off our feet by possible romance scams, especially in the world of online dating.

While dating websites are full of honest people wanting to find love, these sites can be brimming with cons that only pine after your hard-earned cash. Here are a few scams that can turn your ideal relationship into a romantic blunder:

Automated Russian dating bots
KrebsonSecurity recently reported that there are romance scam packages that cybercriminals can purchase to lure men into believing they are dating a Russian woman via email spam or dating websites. These packages include emails from the woman’s mother, pre-fabricated excuses for not talking on the phone, and even crooked call centers that employ men and women con artists who speak a variety of languages.

Nigerian Yahoo Boys
Yahoo Boys are Nigerian men who specialize in cybercrime using multiple cons including romance scams. In October, a story was released of a woman who had been contacted via Facebook, romantically scammed and subsequently used as a money mule for the Yahoo Boys all while believing she was assisting a man she was going to marry. She now resides in prison for money laundering.

Curve ball: Old-fashioned con
Romance fraud is not just perpetrated by long-distance cyber scammers that appear with open hearts (and pockets) and disappear without a trace. While in-person romance scams are not as popular as online scams, there are still old-fashioned conmen and women who would love to sweep you off your feet. For example, doctor Paolo Macchiarini. He was a famous surgeon who wooed an NBC producer while filming a documentary about his work. They took lavish vacations on his dime and eventually became engaged. He was wealthy, generous and a public figure but he still defrauded his fiancée (and the public). He lied about his marriage, his connections, his status with notable figures and even his surgical credentials.

During this season of love, don’t let your wallet and heart get stolen in a Valentine’s Day scam. There are common tell-tale signs that may clue you in on whether your new special someone is actually a smart scammer. Find more information here: Fraud-Magazine, FBI.com, antifraudnews.com, and Romancescam.com

When Football Stars Turn Into Fraudsters

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Sarah Hofmann
ACFE Public Relations Specialist

Although still not officially a U.S. holiday, the Super Bowl ranks up there with the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving as one of the most American days of the year. Families and friends gather around food and yell at the television as if the players can hear them. While football players are often lauded as heroes on the field, some players fall far from grace by turning to fraud when their sometimes short careers are over. Here are some of the most notable footballers-turned-fraudsters.

Will Allen
After 11 years in the NFL as a cornerback, Allen found himself intercepted by the SEC when he was arrested for orchestrating a $32 million Ponzi scheme. The former New York Giant and Miami Dolphin ran Capital Financial Partners LLC with his partner Susan Daub. Allen convinced investors the company would provide short-term, high-interest loans to athletes, while he pocketed nearly $4 million for himself. When questioned by the SEC, Allen allegedly forged signatures on important documents to cover up his crimes. He has yet to be formally charged but faces 23 felony counts and up to 240 years in prison.

Irving Fryar
Fryar may have been lucky enough to score the only touchdown for the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX in 1986, but the wide receiver’s luck ran out 15 years after he retired from the league. In 2015, Fryar and his mother were found guilty of mortgage fraud in New Jersey Superior. In 2009, they obtained multiple home equity loans while using the same property as collateral. Fryar was ordered to pay $615,600 in restitution to the banks affected by the fraud and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Freddie Mitchell
He played in Super bowl XXXIX, but former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Mitchell may have flown a little too high when he created the company Chameleon LLC. That company, along with him as an individual, filed a number of fraudulent tax returns, amounting up to $3.3 million. He pleaded guilty and, according to Accounting Web, he blames multiple concussions he sustained during his football career for making him too trusting of a person. He alleges that he was the victim of a fraudster posing as an IRS agent. He was sentenced to 37 months in prison in 2013.

Arthur J. Marshall Jr.
Marshall Jr. never made a splash on the field, spending only five years in the NFL from 1991-1996, but he managed to leave his mark in another way when he was convicted of an elaborate mortgage fraud scheme in 2009. He was charged with 22 felonies including falsifying sales contracts and personal finance records that left multiple banks on the hook for millions in bad debt. He was ordered to pay $3.6 in restitution and was sentenced to 69 months in prison.

Mark Ingram Sr.
Ingram Sr. may have a Super Bowl ring from being a wide receiver for the Super Bowl XXV champion New York Giants, but he also has a less impressive record as a felon. He retired from football in 1996 and was charged with federal money laundering and bank fraud charges in 2008. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and was ordered to pay $252,000 in restitution. His son, Mark Ingram Jr. is currently a running back for the New Orleans Saints; he was picked in the same round and at the same number as his father.

So while you cheer on your favored team in the big game, keep in mind that there may be a future fraudster playing on that field.

Wall Street Jed(i) to Keynote ACFE Global Fraud Conference

These flattering descriptions tell me a few things about upcoming conference keynote speaker Judge Jed S. Rakoff, the U.S. District Judge of the Southern District of New York. First, there actually is someone out there who is trying to hold Wall Street’s wanderers accountable. Second, the media is capable of paying compliments. And, lastly, that he has a few things in common with many of the attendees I have met at the ACFE Global Fraud Conference over the past few years.

More than 3,000 fraud fighters from the around the world will all come together to network, learn and share war stories exactly like the ones Rakoff has fought at the 27th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference, June 12-17, 2016, in Las Vegas.

But, the agenda doesn’t just stop with Rakoff. He will be joined by other keynote speakers including:

  • Steve van Aperen, Body Language Expert
    Van Aperen has appeared on CNN, Access Hollywood, The News Room and many other programs and is affectionately referred to as the “The Human Lie Detector”. He is known as an expert in the field of behavioral interviewing, reading body language, detecting deception and changing behaviors through rapid induction hypnosis. He has conducted behavioral interviews on 68 homicide and two serial killer investigations and consults his services to Fortune 500 companies, police departments, intelligence agencies and government departments throughout the world on how to read body language and detect deception by analyzing verbal, nonverbal and paralinguistic behaviors.
  • David Barboza, Investigative Journalist, The New York Times, Pulitzer Prize Winner
    Barboza has been a correspondent for The New York Times based in Shanghai, China, since November 2004. In 2013, Barboza was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting “for his striking exposure of corruption at high levels of the Chinese government, including billions in secret wealth owned by relatives of the prime minister, well documented work published in the face of heavy pressure from the Chinese officials.” He was also part of the team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. In 2002, he was part of a team that was named a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Enron scandal.
  • Tony Menendez, the "Accountant who Beat Halliburton"
    Menendez is widely recognized for his decade long legal battle with Halliburton as a corporate whistleblower under Sarbanes-Oxley. Despite having no formal legal training, as a pro-se litigant during the appeals process, he ultimately prevailed in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. An in-depth profile of Menendez published by ProPublica provides insight into what motivated him to stand up against a corporate behemoth while shedding light on the difficult journey so many whistleblowers experience after coming forward.

Along with the keynotes listed above, the ACFE Global Fraud Conference will pack in more than 70 educational sessions, three Pre-Conferences, three Post-Conferences and an unlimited amount of networking into five days. I look forward to seeing you, and hearing even more stories about your individual fight against fraud, at the conference in June. Register by March 28 to reserve your spot and receive the latest savings.