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Man who lost $500k after making online ‘friend’ says he’s not the only one

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A Mississippi man was targeted by a scammer who promised marriage and riches, but thankfully the FBI intervened before the situation escalated. Barry May, a 62-year-old retired insurance adjuster, met a woman named Anna on Facebook who claimed to live in New York. The two began chatting, and Anna sent explicit pictures to gain May’s trust.

Anna then told May that her aunt was holding $3 million of her money and needed his help to retrieve it. She asked May to invest in cryptocurrency so that her aunt would release the money and she could come to Mississippi to marry him. Eager to help, May sold property and liquidated his 401(k), sending Anna his life savings totaling over $500,000.

As May was about to take out a loan to send even more money, the FBI contacted him to inform him that he was caught up in a major fraud situation. The FBI explained to May that he was a victim of a common scam known as pig butchering, in which people are promised wealth and romantic relationships over social media platforms, and then tricked into sending large sums of money overseas.

The FBI has been combating these scams with a new initiative to protect people from falling victim to fraudulent schemes. The pig butchering scam is often run by organized crime groups based in Southeast Asia, who carefully research their victims and spend months or even years gaining their trust. FBI officials have reported over $3.5 billion in losses and around 40,000 victims in the United States in 2023. They’ve seen individual losses in the millions of dollars.

The FBI has managed to intervene and warn some victims before they send additional funds, and has been successful in seizing and recovering some stolen funds. May was fortunate to have been stopped before taking out a loan, but most of the money he had already sent was unrecoverable. This has left him with only $10,000 to his name, severely impacting his quality of life and his ability to afford medicine for his disabled daughter.

May urged others to be cautious and skeptical of online promises that seem too good to be true, emphasizing that these scams are highly sophisticated and convincing. Statistics from the Federal Trade Commission show that reported fraud losses in the United States reached almost $8.8 billion in 2022, surpassing previous years’ figures, highlighting the urgent need for awareness and prevention measures.

The ordeal has taken a toll on May’s physical and emotional well-being, but he remains determined to move forward and take care of his daughter. He cautioned others against falling for similar scams, and emphasized the importance of reporting fraudulent activities to law enforcement. As the FBI continues to combat pig butchering and other online scams, protecting vulnerable individuals like May remains a top priority to prevent further financial and emotional devastation.

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