Some Internet scammers are not just interested in a victim’s money. Instead, they seek to turn the victim into a drug courier.
In many cases the victims are older Internet users who are offered a free air flight on some pretext.
U.S. Officials say that foreign governments have detained 145 victims who were carrying drugs and that 44 of them still are behind bars.
A joint U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection investigation said that the average age of the victims is 59.
“We’ve seen seniors in Arizona and from across the nation targeted in scams before, but to have the situation escalate to point where victims are being imprisoned overseas is especially troubling,” said U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. He heard testimony on the cases as a member of the Senate Aging Committee.
During a hearing, the committee heard the testimony of Green Valley, Arizona, resident Daniel Seibert, a victim of the scheme, according to Flake’s office.
The senate office gave this account:
Seibert, 79, testified that scammers contacted him by email promising to fly him to Dubai in order to collect unclaimed funds left by relatives in overseas accounts. The scammers then sent Seibert fully-paid plane tickets that would have taken him to the U.K., then Dubai, and then to Japan. Federal law enforcement officials said they believe he would have been given a package containing narcotics at some point along this journey. Seibert traveled to Atlanta to board the flight, but was fortunately intercepted by federal agents before he could leave the United States.
The criminals draw in their victims by first entangling them in a lottery scam, an inheritance scam, or a romance scam. Once the senior is hooked, the criminal will then book an international flight in the senior’s name for a reason tailored to that particular scam. Once the senior arrives at his or her destination, they are booked on a flight to a third country and the scammer provides an itinerary to the victim.
Along the way, the senior is told that for some reason it is important to carry a package or an extra suitcase, which unbeknownst to them, is filled with drugs.
The age of the oldest victim is 87, said the senator’s office.