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Thursday, May 23, 2024

State’s Attorney Berlin’s Office, U.S. Secret Service Team Up to Close Down More Than 350 Fraudulent Investment Websites

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Teams’ efforts saved nearly 18,000 website visitors from falling victim to financial scam known as "Pig Butchering." (Image Credit: Fraudwit.com)

WHEATON – DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin and United States Secret Service Deputy Special Agent in Charge Derek Mayer announced today that a recent joint sting operation conducted by the two agencies, along with DuPage County’s IT Department, resulted in shutting down more than 350 fake websites designed to con visitors through fraudulent investment scams.

Commonly known as “Pig Butchering,” the scam involved three individuals from another country who posed as a successful, friendly individual or romantic interest to deceive their victims into providing funds for fictitious emergencies, investments, employment opportunities or other schemes only to disappear once they had received money from their victims. The 90-day effort diverted approximately 17,800 visitors from the phony websites. Following the successful conclusion of the operation, Berlin’s and Mayer’s offices once again joined forces to produce a public service announcement to help the public steer clear of such scams.

The public service announcement is available at:         

– YouTube: https://youtu.be/safpK5gfbjI 

– DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DuPageSAO/

– DuPage County State’s Attorney’s website: https://www.dupagecounty.gov/elected_officials/state_s_attorney/

Such schemes typically work as follows:

  • First, the fraudsters create a phony online persona which typically shows them living a glamorous lifestyle.
  • Once equipped with this fake persona, the con men then took to the Internet, sending messages to people on dating and social networking websites.
  • After contact is made with their victim, the fraudster then works on gaining the victim’s confidence and trust before pivoting their conversations to investments and the success they have had. The con man ultimately convinces their victim to “invest” real money into phony brokerage accounts with them, promising training and tutelage along the way.
  • The manipulation continues with the scammer exploiting their victim’s emotional and financial vulnerabilities to convince them to “invest” even more funds. Once the victim was either unwilling or unable to continue “investing,” the victim’s perceived success suddenly stops, often times with the explanation that their investment suffered a huge loss that wiped out all the funds.
  • The fraudsters then attempt one last swindle, informing their victim that if they invest more money, they will be able to recoup their losses. Once the target realizes they have been scammed, the scammer goes silent and the website of the phony brokerage stops working.

Because perpetrators often live outside the country, investigators often focus on taking away their money and dismantling their infrastructure to commit fraud.

 “While the use of technology has certainly enhanced our lives from keeping in touch with loved ones through being more productive at work, it has also made us much more vulnerable,” Berlin said. “Even for those who are familiar with potential scams on the Internet, it is still extremely easy to become a target of such scams. To minimize the chances of becoming a victim, do not provide any personal information, particularly financial information, to anyone you have only corresponded with online or on the phone. I would also say to trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right about a transaction, do not complete it.”

Mayer praised the work of those involved in the operation, including the U.S. Secret Service, the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office and the DuPage County IT Department.

“This is a significant case both in DuPage County and the state of Illinois, and it led to protecting so many people from falling prey to these online traps,” Mayer said. “The Secret Service appreciates our partnership with the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office that ended up helping so many people.”

 “I am extremely proud of our partnership with the U.S. Secret Service in combatting online scams designed to take advantage of trusting, innocent individuals,” Berlin added. “I am equally as proud of DuPage County’s IT Department’s Network and Web Services Teams for their outstanding work in helping protect DuPage County residents as they navigate their way through the Internet.”

Berlin continued, “While no prosecutions or arrests resulted from this operation as the individuals involved all live outside the United States, I still feel this endeavor was a tremendous success as it allowed us to remove these websites from the Internet, putting an end to this scheme and the probability of future victims.”

“Our Information Technology staff went above and beyond while assisting with this criminal investigation. I appreciate the invaluable work of everyone involved and am grateful we were able to keep so many of our residents safe,” said DuPage County Information Technology Committee Chair Yeena Yoo.

“Working together as a team with U.S. Secret Service, our States Attorney and County Technology team has done amazing work to protect residents from internet predictors,” said Patty Gustin, District 5 DuPage County Board member.

For further information on how to protect yourself from online scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission at https://consumer.ftc.gov/scams.

RELATED PN POSTS / All Types of SCAMS – Always beware of unsolicited contact whether via phone, email or social media. Remember the old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Stay safe.

 

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PN Editor
PN Editor
An editor is someone who prepares content for publishing. It entered English, the American Language, via French. Its modern sense for newspapers has been around since about 1800.
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