SUNNY ISLES BEACH, Fla. – Linda Bemis was using Facebook when she thought she had connected with a handsome military serviceman known as Mr. Bravo. Detectives said the Facebook user was a scammer who would later manipulate her into handing over $60,000.
Bemis fell in love, so when Mr. Bravo was stuck in Afghanistan and he needed $50,000 to get his luggage through customs she sold a share of her home to raise the money. She also sold her car to send $10,000.
Bemis didn’t hesitate. The Facebook user had earned her trust.
“When we were growing up we had pen pals and stuff like that. Everybody was always who they said they were,” Bemis said adding, “The guy had a really nice smile.”
Officers arrested Lisa Miller on Tuesday accusing her of swindling the 74-year-old heartbroken victim, according to the arrest warrant. Miller denied the “crazy” accusations and said she too was scammed.
“Be careful ... Before you know it, you can become a victim just like that in this case,” said Sgt. Brian Schnell, of the Sunny Isles Beach Police Department.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, romance scams result in the highest amount of financial losses to victims when compared to other online crimes and Florida is among the states with the highest numbers of victims.
Investigators said bank records show Miller spent the cash in months. They also found the internet protocol address for the romance scammer’s Facebook account was from Nigeria. Fraudsters are able to use virtual private network providers to get IP addresses from other countries.
Miller is facing charges of theft from the elderly and organized fraud. She remained in Miami-Dade County
What is a romance scam
Tips to avoid becoming a victim
- Be careful with what you post. Scammers can use that information against you.
- Research the person’s photo and profile.
- Ask lots of questions.
- Beware of requests for inappropriate photos or financial information.
- Beware of excuses for not meeting in person.
- Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally.
Source: FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center