It’s hard to believe that so many people still fall for internet scams, but sadly that seems to be the case. In 2015, it was estimated that at least $12.7 billion was paid to scammers by unsuspecting internet users. In many cases, these scams started and ended on the internet, with scammers being caught by the FBI, Interpol, and various other global crime fighting agencies. In some cases, victims met their scammers in real life and were lured into additional cases of fraud through email, VoIP-based calls, and other modern day tactics. We compiled a list of people who made millions by defrauding their victims both in real-life and on the internet.
‘Mike’ And The Nigerian Email Scam
On August 1, 2016, a man by the name of “Mike” was arrested by Interpol. The 40-year-old man, whose last name was not released at the time of his arrest, was believed to have stolen more than $60 million from people around the world. In one rare instance, he took a rich victim for $15.4 million. “Mike” was believed to have led a team of 40 workers in Nigeria, Malaysia, and South Africa.
6 Men Captured In West Africa
Six West African men were arrested in 2002 after taking part in a “419 scam” which was named after the criminal code in that country which focuses on collecting money illegally from victims. The men started their scam by traditional mail and eventually moved to the internet. In their emails, they would claim that a potential victim was selected to act as a receiver of millions of dollars from a Nigerian national. All the victim has to do is provide their bank account information and a small sum of money to secure the funds.
20 Yahoo Boys Arrested During 419 Scam
In 2013 a group of 20 “Yahoo Boys” were arrested in Nigeria after defrauding victims out of millions of dollars. The group of scammers, a popular trade in Nigeria, got their name from their use of the popular Yahoo search engine used primarily in their country. More than 45 laptops and various other pieces of equipment were used.
Paul Webster And The Gun Scam
Paul Webster became known as a popular scammer on gun sales boards. His scam was simple — he would place ads for guns that he claimed could be sold for hundreds of dollars. After receiving payment from buyers the guns would never be transferred. Webster was only caught after the website GunsAmerica followed his trail and led authorities to his whereabouts. He had stolen millions of dollars from his victims before his eventual capture.
Rachel Lee And The Ferrari Tip-Off
Rachel Lee’s decision to buy a Ferrari and park it outside of her Oregon psychic shop led to her eventual capture. The fraudster and her accomplices pulled off a decade-long scam that stole more than $15 million from Ralph Raines Jr., the heir to the Raines Tree Farm fortune. Lee made the millionaire believe she could tell the future and also came on to him in an attempt to rob him of a massive amount of wealth. She used her own daughter to lure in Raines Jr., by way of the internet.
Three Men And $100 Million
US authorities announced the identities of three men in 2010 after they conned $100 million out of people in 60 countries around the world. The men installed bogus software that convinced them their computers were infected by malicious programs. James Reno, Bjorn Daniel Sundin, and Shaileshkumar Jain were indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago, Illinois.
A Banking Scam That Stole Millions
Not every internet scam targets individuals. In October 2015 authorities in the Philippines captured a group of Nigerians who hacked online bank accounts while stealing millions of dollars. In one instance the men walked away with $20 million from a single bank. The suspects were arrested in the Cavite province in Southern Luzon.
Priscilla Delmaro And The Case Of The Evil Spirits
In August 2014 an unidentified New York man claimed that 26-year-old psychic Priscilla Delmaro stole more than $700,000 from his personal fortune. Delmaro spun a web of lies for the man, claiming that evil spirits were keeping him from the woman he loved. To ward off the spirits the man paid $80,000 for an 80-mile bridge she said would trap evil spirits into another realm. He proceeded to buy her a $30,000 Rolex she claimed would cleanse the sins of his past and $40,064 for a Tiffany diamond ring to “protect his energy.” She also outright asked for about $40,000 in cash. She regularly lured him back into her web of lies using internet chat sessions and the power of threatening emails.
IRS Scammers Arrested
Five suspects were arrested in 2016 after they bilked US citizens out of $36.5 million from 6,400 victims nationwide. Police in Florida captured the men and accused them of placing thousands of calls while illegally claiming to be part of the IRS. The scammers told victims they owed thousands of dollars in back-taxes and would be arrested immediately if they didn’t pay their debts. The men used VoIP technology to avoid detection for a long period of time before they were eventually caught.
A 19-Year-Old’s $20+ Million Internet Scam
A public schoolboy was arrested in the United Kingdom after he created an £18 million banking scam and then boasted online that he was a ‘legendary’ fraudster. Nick Webber, 19, built an internet empire using IT skills honed at exclusive boarding school Bradfield College. He made his cash by selling the details for 65,000 bank accounts online. He also created GhostMarket, a popular exchange where stolen bank account details could be traded and purchased by users.
A Gang Of International Fraudsters Caught
Police in Bangkok, Thailand arrested a group of fraudsters who duped European victims into investing eight million euros ($9.9 million) in fake funds. The group included 15 foreigners from America, South Africa, and Germany. The men told their victims they could “make 65% profit” in a very short period of time by investing in cash and gold.
French Clairvoyant Maria Duval
It can be argued that Maria Duval reaped most of her profits from mail fraud, however, as the years progressed her scam became an international operation that spanned the internet and beyond. A group of international fraudsters used her name and identity to convince lost souls that they could donate their money and valuables to secure a positive future. While CNN hunted down Maria Duval, it is believed that she lost control of her operation many years ago.
The Lekki Scammers Of Lagos
Seven men were arrested in the Lekki area of Lagos after authorities became suspicious of their buying habits. The men spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on high-priced cars, homes, and jewelry. The men were all undergraduates who were studying various courses at one of the nation’s schools of higher education.
The Nigerian Email Scam
We’ve examined 13 internet scammers who were caught after stealing millions of dollars from their victims — here’s how they did it.
The Nigerian Email Scam typically goes something like this:
A rich prince, public figure, or lawyer will reach out to unsuspecting victims, explaining that they have millions of dollars that need to be sent overseas as quickly as possible. The victim can access that money by simply providing their banking account information and then sending a small processing fee to release that money.
Once the victim sends money over Western Union or via a bank transfer, the fraudster disappears, never to be heard from again.
The Perfect Girlfriend Scam
Lonely men have reportedly given hundreds of millions of dollars to fraudsters who lure them into fake relationships. These fraudsters pretend to be lonely women who want nothing more than a relationship with a desperate man. They will often spend months convincing the victim that they are in love, right before asking them to send thousands of dollars for a plane ticket or to help with sudden medical bills.
The Overdraft / Craigslist Scam
This scam is simple and kind of brilliant. A scammer will send a check for an item listed on Craigslist and “accidentally” write the check for more than the value of the item. For example, a scammer may send a $1,300 for a $300 bike. After the check is received they will ask the seller to cash the check, keep an extra $100 for their troubles, and wire the rest of the money to the scammer. A short time after the victim wires the money the original check will come back as a fake or with a notice of non-sufficient funds from the bank where it originated.
Phishing For Your Money
This is a classic and well-documented scam in which you receive an email from Paypal, Google, Apple, or some other large company with a payment portal. You are told to log into your profile “or else your account will be suspended!” Once you click through to the fake website set up by the fraudster and attempt to log into your account they will have already stolen your personal information and made purchases using your account.
The Work-At-Home Scam
You receive a notice in your email claiming that you can make a ton of money by working from home. To get started all you have to do is send a $99.95 application fee to get started. Once you submit your money to the website, the deal vanishes and you are left with a small amount of debt and no job to be worked.
The “False Infection” Scam
You’re browsing the internet when a message pops up and claims your computer is infected with a dangerous digital virus. You can get rid of the virus by clicking on a link or calling a phone number and paying a small fee that can easily climb to upwards of $100. Once you pay the fee you are told to reset your computer and the “virus” magically disappears.
The “Natural Disaster Scam”
Right after a hurricane reaches land, a tornado strikes, or some other type of tragedy occurs, you receive emails asking for donations to help victims of the crisis. Sadly, your good intentions do nothing more than line the pockets of some wealthy internet scammers who have preyed on your goodwill towards your fellow humans.