Helena, Mont. – On Valentine’s Day, Commissioner Troy Downing released the latest episode of the “CSI Insider Podcast” discussing romance scams. Joined by Deputy Securities Commissioner Lynne Egan, the podcast discusses romance scams that prey on victims under the false premise of a romantic connection. Once trust is established, the scammer, who is usually not the person they pretend to be, scams victims out of money. These scammers prey particularly on victims over age 60. The podcast discusses what to watch out for when meeting romantic partners online and how to spot scams.
“Romance scams are a growing issue in Montana, particularly for the elderly. Our agency continuously learns of victims losing thousands, and in some cases, millions of dollars in these types of scams.” Commissioner Troy Downing said, “Victims often have little ability to recoup financial losses because the perpetrators are overseas and impossible to identify and locate.”
In one recent case, an elderly Billings man liquidated $1.3 million of his retirement account and shipped the money in cash, wrapped in aluminum foil, to a fraudster in South Korea. Unfortunately, the money was never located, and the victim who was scammed now owes the IRS taxes on the entire amount because the money was taken from a qualified retirement account. CSI is working with the IRS to give the victim relief on the tax.
“If someone online tries to gain your confidence to either invest or help them with a financial emergency, it may be a scam and there may be other victims. It is essential to contact our agency and report these so that we can investigate and protect other potential victims.” Commissioner Downing continues, “CSI can reach out to the victim’s family to warn them that their parents or grandparents may be taken advantage of and sometimes delay or stop the distribution before it’s too late.”
In another notable case discussed by Deputy Securities Commissioner Egan, a former Montana AG’s likeness was used by a Russian scammer. Multiple victims were led to believe the AG was going to marry them. In this case, the bad actor was arrested and extradited to the United States to stand trial. Of course, the AG had no involvement or knowledge that the scammers had used his likeness.
The Office of the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance can be reached at 444-2040 or by going to CSIMT.gov. Montanans are encouraged to report securities fraud and romance scams to the CSI team. Help us so we can investigate, prosecute, and protect other potential victims.
Watch the full podcast HERE.